San Beda University aims to keep its stranglehold of the No. 2 spot as it clashes with an unpredictable San Sebastian College on Friday for a place inside the National College Athletic Association Season 99 magic four at the Filoil EcoOil Arena in San Juan City.
College of St. Benilde and Emilio Aguinaldo College face off in the first game at 2 p.m.
The gritty Lions escaped the upset axe from the imploding University of Perpetual Help Altas, 62-60, last Tuesday that eventually catapulted them straightaway to No. 2 with a 5-2 record.
If San Beda beats San Sebastian, which is fighting for its Final Four life with a 3-5 mark, in their 4 p.m. duel, it would keep its lofty perch while inching closer to a pace-setting Mapua (7-1).
For the Blazers and the Generals, who are currently jammed at No. 5 with identical 4-3 record, the victor in their 2 p.m. showdown would snare a piece of the No. 4 spot.
It would be especially sweet for CSB, a losing finalist last year, as it will reach its highest position this season after a disappointing 1-3 start.
“We’re improving,” said CSB coach Charles Tiu, whose most recent win came at the expense of Arellano U, 72-66, Sunday.
Interestingly, both the Lions and the Blazers went deep with their benches to get those wins.
Tiu had the luxury of benching his starting big men—reigning MVP Will Gozum and Miguel Corteza—late to escape with the win.
For San Beda mentor Yuri Escueta, he drew strength from his second stringers headed by Fil-Canadian Jomel Puno, who provided the Lions shelter with 12 points and 17 rebounds.
“We need our bench to step up,” Escueta said.