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CEU eyes title repeat as UCBL opens Sept. 7

By Jerome Lagunzad

Games Sept. 7
(Olivarez College Gym)
1 p.m. – BulSU vs UB
3 p.m. – CEU vs Olivarez College

Back with an intact lineup led by prized Congelese center Rod Ebondo, defending champion Centro Escolar University is tipped to reassert its dominance in the Universities and Colleges Basketball League (UCBL) Season 2 that gets going on Sept. 7 at the Olivarez College gym in Sucat, Parañaque City.

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Buoyed by their bridesmaid finish in the PBA D-League Foundation Cup last week, the Scorpions should come with a more dangerous sting with the return of the 6-foot-9 Ebondo, arguably the most imposing reinforcement in the eight-team field, plus several vital cogs like Christian Uri, Orlan Wamar, Joseph Manlangit and Oliver Arim.

CEU’s second-year coach Yong Garcia, however, refused to be carried away, saying the Diliman College Blue Dragons, still handled by former pro Rensy Bajar, and the Sea Lions, whom they swept in the finals last year, are bringing in a pair of African imports each.

“Lahat naman ng teams nagpalakas ngayon,” Garcia said yesterday during the tournament’s press launch held at the Arctic Room inside the Hotel H2O behind the Quirino Grandstand in Manila.

“I just told my players that this is a different tournament. The pressure is always there. That’s why its important for my players to keep their focus (on the task at hand) and treat every game as a championship game. We need to give our best effort for us to defend the crown.”

Except for the opening day, all games will be played from 12 noon to 4 p.m. every Monday, Thursday and Saturday at the Olivarez Gym and will be televised nationwide on a delayed basis at IBC Channel 13 from 8 p.m. to 12 midnight.

“We’re expecting a more exciting season now that we already have eight teams vying for the crown. Most of the teams have also beefed up their respective lineups as they plan to foil CEU’s back-to-back (title) bid,” said UCBL president Franklin Evidente who shared center stage with UCBL tournament director Horacio Lim.

CEU will open its title-retention bid against familiar foe Olivarez College right on the opening day on September 7 at 3 p.m while Bulacan State University, led by reigning tournament MVP Dominick Fajardo, squares off with University of Batangas in the initial offering at 1 o’clock following a short but colorful opening rites at the Sea Lions’ home court.

Colegio de San Lorenzo and Technological Institute of the Philippines are also eager to redeem themselves from so-so performances in the inaugural staging while newcomer Lyceum of the Philippines Batangas intends to make an immediate impact, giving tournament organizers high hopes for a fitting encore.