By Michael Angelo S. Murillo
THE San Sebastian Stags return to National Collegiate Athletic Association Season 95 action today looking for a win that could well secure for them a Final Four spot.
To take on the Mapua Cardinals in the scheduled 4 p.m. game at the FilOil Flying V Centre in San Juan City, the Stags (9-6), currently at fourth spot in the race for the playoffs, are out to notch win number 10, which should be enough to earn a ticket for the next round of the ongoing season of the country’s oldest collegiate league.
As things stand entering today’s matches, only the Cardinals (7-8) and the College of Saint Benilde Blazers (7-8) still have a chance of making it in the top four in Season 95.
But a loss by Mapua today to the Stags would mean the end of its Final Four hopes as the most wins it could get after would be nine.
The same goes for the Blazers if they lose to the league-leading San Beda Red Lions (16-0) in the preceding 2 p.m. game today.
In such an event that Mapua and CSB lose, the idle Letran Knights (10-6) also earn a spot in the semifinals.
The other team already assured of a Final Four berth are the second-running Lyceum Pirates (12-4).
San Sebastian did its cause a favor with a gutsy win over Lyceum, 73-71, on Tuesday that put it on the cusp of the Final Four.
Allyn Bulanadi led the charge for the Stags, who trailed for much of the contest, as they pulled the rug from under the erstwhile streaking Pirates.
The league’s leading scorer, Bulanadi finished with 28 points and dished out the winning assist to teammate Romel Calahat with 5.2 seconds left for the go-ahead basket.
Veteran RK Ilagan had 11 points while Alvin Capobres added nine for the Stags.
“This is a big win. Thanks to God. We did not have a good start but the boys showed character allowing us to get the win,” said Stags coach Egay Macaraya after their win.
Looking to stop the Stags and keep their playoff hopes alive are the Cardinals, who have slowed down of late by losing back to back after winning four straight previously.
The most recent of Mapua’s losses was dealt by San Beda, 83-55, on Oct. 4.
Laurenz Victoria is leading the way for the Randy Alcantara-coached Cardinals with 11.4 points per contest, followed by Noah Lugo (11.2 ppg) and Paulo Hernandez (10.7 ppg).