By Joey Villar

MAPUA eyes to join the big guns — defending champion Letran and last year’s runner-up San Beda — at the helm as it tackles San Sebastian College (SSC) on Tuesday in the 97th National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) basketball tournament at the La Salle Greenhills Gym in Mandaluyong.

The Cardinals threaded the proverbial eye of the needle by edging the Emilio Aguinaldo College (EAC) Generals, 73-67, last March 27 and the Jose Rizal University Bombers, 59-56, on Friday to remain one of the three unbeaten teams in the league.

Another victory in their 12 p.m. duel with the Stags would keep it unscathed while reclaiming a share of No. 1 with the Knights and the Lions, who each have won three straight.

Mapua skipper Warren Bonifacio, who was instrumental in the two triumphs, is hoping to keep the momentum going.

“We need to keep on working hard and believing in ourselves,” said Mr. Bonifacio.

But expect another dogfight as Mapua is clashing with an equally dangerous San Sebastian College (SSC), which turned back University of Perpetual Help, 63-58, on Friday for its first win in two outings.

The Stags are hoping to bring their best defensive effort again.

“Our team is a defense-minded team. We’ll try to win games with our defense,” said SSC coach Egay Macaraya.

Also coming off victories were St. Benilde and EAC, which clashes in the second game at 3 p.m.

The Blazers bested the Arellano University Chiefs, 76-71, on Saturday to improve to 2-1 while the Generals eked out a 70-69 win over the Lyceum of the Philippines University the same day.