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Games Today
(Mall of Asia Arena)
1 p.m. – San Beda vs Mapua (Jrs.)
4 p.m. – Arellano vs San Beda (Srs.)

San Beda coach insists they are the underdogs.

Select members of the San Beda Red Lions were in good spirits during the postgame interview after surviving a stern test in the University of Perpertual Help Altas in the Final Four.

Robert Bolick, Davon Potts and Javee Mocon were pocking fun at each other as they gamely answered questions from the media. Coach Jamike Jarin even made unprintable remarks that drew laughter from everyone inside the press room.

But when one scribe asked about their NCAA finals duel with the well-rested Arellano University Chiefs, which starts today at the Mall of Asia Arena, Jarin declared that his Red Lions were the underdogs for the season’s ultimate test, even if they had beaten their neighbors in Legarda thrice this season.

“They’re good. They have the best,” Jarin said, referring to Arellano having arguably the best player in amateur basketball – peppery guard Jiovanni Jalalon.

It’s mindboggling that the Red Lions are embracing the underdog label. They beat the Chiefs in impressive fashion, including two in a span of four days to secure the top seed in the Final Four while holding Jalalon to combined 9-of-40 shooting in both games.

San Beda is perhaps the hungrier side, having endured the pain of losing to archrival Letran in a thrilling three-game series last season.

Not even the loss of key players, particularly Art dela Cruz and Baser Amer to the pros and Donald Tankoua to a midseason injury, has hurt the Red Lions’ chances of securing their 9th title in 11 seasons.

“You lose your six best players from last year, you lose your best center during the season. You end up No. 1, you still go up to the finals, we’re struggling. We’re the underdog,” Jarin said.

San Beda only had a day to prepare for the 4 p.m. encounter, while Arellano had the luxury of resting for six days after dispatching Mapua in the Final Four last Friday.

Arellano is also eager to bring the title to the Legarda campus. Its first stint in 2014 ended in misery when the Chiefs were swept by the Red Lions in convincing fashion.

“San Beda has the culture and history,” said Chiefs coach Jerry Codiñera. “They beat us twice, we’ll make some adjustments. We just have to be ready.”

Should he find a way to resolve his shooting woes against the Red Lions, Jalalon may end up validating his status while giving the Chiefs the ultimate prize they had chased since entering the NCAA in 2009.

The San Beda-Arellano series opener comes after the 1 p.m. duel between eight-peat seeking San Beda and Mapua-Malayan Science High School in Game 1 of the best-of-three series for the juniors title.