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Stags, Blazers, Altas eye 2nd win

Games today:
(FilOil EcoOil Centre)
12 p.m. — Arellano vs Perpetual
3 p.m. — San Sebastian vs Saint Benilde

Three teams will gun for their second straight win when they see action in Season 98 National Collegiate Athletic Association men’s basketball tournament today at the Filoil EcoOil Centre.

San Sebastian College and College of Saint Benilde will collide at 3 p.m. for their second win that will give them the early lead in the country’s oldest collegiate league.

Also looking to get a spot on top of the team standings is University of Perpetual Help System Dalta, which will battle Arellano University in the 12 p.m. curtain-raiser.

The Altas are coming off an 84-60 win over Jose Rizal University last Sunday and are seeking for a win over the Chiefs, who are coming off a 51-60 loss to the Stags last Tuesday.

With that, Perpetual, Saint Benilde and San Sebastian as well as idle Letran College remain as the only unbeaten teams in the early stretch of this tournament.

San Sebastian, for its part, looked like it lost its luster following the departure of JM Calma for the Philippine Basketball Association.

But the Stags, now being led by Ichie Altamirano, Tristan Felebrico and Kenneth Villapando, pulled off a shocker when they made a deep run in the PBA D-League Aspirants Cup before making a statement win over the Chiefs in their first game of the NCAA season.

But San Sebastian coach Egay Macaraya said they have to be consistent against a dangerous Blazers squad that is bannered by Will Gozum, Miguel Oczon and Robi Nayve.

“Saint Benilde is a strong team, especially since they’re also coming off from a win. We have to keep up with the intensity,” said Macaraya, whose team registered 21 fastbreak points against Arellano.
“We just need to focus on what we do best, like in defense.”

Meanwhile, Saint Benilde is also making a case to return to the Final Four after a two-decade absence.

After a painful exit in the play-in last season, the Blazers made heads turn after reaching the quarterfinals of the Filoil EcoOil Preseason Cup.

Their core from Season 97 also remains intact despite the departure of AJ Benson.

Saint Benilde head coach Charles Tiu said that they expect a physical game against San Sebastian.

“They’re always contenders in the NCAA,” said Tiu, who drew 18 points from Nayve during their 86-69 win over Lyceum of the Philippines University.

“They have a great program and I’m sure they had a disappointing season for their standards. We always expect the physical and rugged game of San Sebastian.”

“They know how to get to the basket and hopefully we can match their toughness and outrebound them. But it’s going to be a tough test for us.”

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