By Michael Angelo S. Murillo, Senior Reporter
AFTER what seemed to be an eternity of a first round, the second phase of the eliminations of National Collegiate Athletic Association Season 95 men’s basketball commences today with a triple-header set at the FilOil Flying V Centre in San Juan City.
Opening things a 12 noon are the defending champions and undefeated league-leaders San Beda Red Lions (9-0) against the tailending Emilio Aguinaldo College Generals (1-8) followed by the Lyceum Pirates (6-3) versus season hosts Arellano Chiefs (2-7) at 2 p.m.. Capping off the day is the 4 p.m. clash between the Letran Knights (6-3) and the Jose Rizal University Heavy Bombers (3-6).
Going for their fourth straight NCAA title this season, the Lions are making a strong claim for it following a solid outing in the opening round, something they hope to sustain in the second fold of the tournament.
Calvin Oftana is leading the charge for the Lions, posting steady numbers of 15.3 points, 8.6 rebounds and 1.2 blocks per game.
James Canlas has been good for 12.6 points with Donald Tankoua adding 12.4 points and 7.1 rebounds.
Evan Nelle is the other San Beda player in double digits in scoring with 10.9 points apart from dishing out 5.8 assists per contest.
“We did not expect to be here in this situation (a sweep of the first round) but we’re happy to have been able to win all these games. It’s still a long ways to go and we have to continue working,” said San Beda coach Boyet Fernandez after wrapping up their first-round assignment on Sept. 6.
Out to stop the Lions are the Generals, who have lost their last seven games after opening the season with a 1-1 record.
JP Maguliano (13.7 ppg and 10.6 rpg) and Marwin Taywan (13.6 ppg and 4.8 apg) are leading the way for Oliver Bunyi-coached EAC.
Lyceum, meanwhile, struggled at the tailend of the opening round, losing back-to-back games.
The last of the Pirates’ losses was at the hands of Arellano, which dropped the upset ax on the former, 87-81, on Aug. 23, making their collision today all the more significant.
Five players scored in double figures for Lyceum in said game, led by Mike Nzeusseu’s 17 and Jayvee Marcelino’s 12 points but it was not enough to get the better of Arellano, which was towed by the double-double effort of Justin Arana (24 points and 11 rebounds).
Letran, for its part, halted a two-game losing streak last time around, beating the College of Saint Benilde Blazers, 88-64, on Sept. 6.
Jerrick Balanza top-scored for the Knights with 26 points on an efficient 8-of-13 shooting from the field.
He was supported by Bonbon Batiller’s 10 points.
The solid performance of Balanza earned for him NCAA player of the week honors, beating San Beda’s Oftana and Allyn Bulanadi of the Sebastian Stags.
Out to derail Letran is JRU, which has lost its last two games and is looking to make an ascent anew.