THE battle of the defending champions and the team many consider as a dark horse in Season 93 of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) headlines today’s seniors basketball feature at the FilOil Flying V Center in San Juan City.
Debut winners in their first outing in the brand-new season of the country’s longest-standing collegiate league, both reigning champs San Beda Red Lions and the Lyceum Pirates are out to extend their winning ways and chalk up early the tournament lead when they collide at the scheduled 4 p.m. game.
Opening for seniors play is the encounter of the Jose Rizal University Heavy Bombers and Perpetual Help Altas at 12 noon followed by that of the Emilio Aguinaldo College Generals and College of St. Benilde Blazers at 2 p.m.
The Lions got their title defense to a winning start by beating Season 93 hosts San Sebastian Stags, 76-67, on opening day last Saturday.
As has been the case for San Beda in the NCAA, it was once again a total team effort that did it for the team to overcome a spirited challenge from the Stags.
Jayvee Mocon had 15 points and 13 rebounds to lead San Beda while Robert Bolick also had 15 points despite being hounded by foul trouble for much of the contest.
Cameroonian Donald Tankoua was also impressive in his NCAA return from knee injury with 10 points and eight rebounds in 16 limited minutes.
Transferee from Ateneo Clint Doliguez also made his presence felt, earning praise from comebacking NCAA coach Boyet Fernandez, who also highlighted their defense as making a difference in their debut win.
“Clint Doliguez came in and I didn’t know how many points he scored but he played good defense, made some steals and brought back the energy that we have,” said Mr. Fernandez.
“Our defense also stepped up in the fourth quarter,” added the San Beda coach, who guided the Mendiola-based Lions to the NCAA title in 2013 and 2014.
Already a marked a team even before the season started following an impressive showing in the preseason, Lyceum underscored its standing as a legit contender in Season 93 with a thorough diffusing of JRU in its season opener last Wednesday, 97-76.
Returning NCAA player CJ Perez led the way for the Pirates with a double-double of 22 points and 10 rebounds. The former Ateneo player also added four assists and two steals in a steady all-around game.
Mark Harry Nzeusseu had 13 points and Jesper Ayaay finished with 11 points and 10 boards for Lyceum.
“Obviously, it was a good output but you don’t win the championship after your first game so we just have to get better,” said Lyceum coach Topex Robinson after their win.
“We are going up against the defending champions in our next game and we know they are a good team and we just have to do what we can from our end,” he added.
Meanwhile, in the opener, Perpetual Help looks to bounce back after having its win in its season debut over CSB reversed on technicality for wearing the wrong uniform.
Despite winning 69-65 over the Blazers, the Altas were stripped of the victory for wearing their dark uniforms instead of the designated light ones they should have for said game.
“Any athlete whose playing uniform does not conform to the rules, first offense is ineligible to participate in a given game. Hence, Perpetual Help forfeits its game in both the juniors and seniors division,” said NCAA Management Committee chairman Fr. Glyn Ortega, OAR, of San Sebastian in a statement as he explained the forfeiture of the Perpetual Help win.
The Altas take on the Heavy Bombers, a team eyeing to rebound from the shellacking it absorbed in its first game against Lyceum.
In the second game, EAC makes its Season 93 debut against CSB that is looking to bag win number two.