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SBC is getting better – Boyet

By Jerome Lagunzad

Games Friday
(The Arena, San Juan City)
2 p.m. – NCAA All-Star Side Events
4 p.m. – NCAA All-Star Game

Defending champion San Beda came up a tad short of completing what many predicted a first-round sweep in the 93rd NCAA seniors basketball tournament, with the Red Lions trailing behind the surprising and still unscathed Lyceum Pirates.

Still, veteran coach Boyet Fernandez remains upbeat, confident that the Red Lions, riding the crest of a seven-game winning streak, should only get better – and more dangerous – once they meet the Pirates anew in the second round of play that unfolds next week.

“As I always say, we have to take good care of ourselves and look forward to winning more games in order for us to be ready against Lyceum,” admitted the two-time NCAA champion mentor, clearly eager to help the Red Lions avenge a 91-96 loss dealt by the Pirates last July 14.

“It will still be a long preparation for us. I do salute Lyceum for a job well done (in the first round). But I hope our boys should really step up their game.”

And the Red Lions gave Fernandez a perfect view of their menacing form last Tuesday when they handled the Arellano Chiefs with ease 95-70 in a rematch of last year’s finals, thanks to a back-breaking 20-3 run in the second canto and a sustained defensive intensity.

Jose Rizal University, another team on the rise buoyed by its impressive 6-3 win-loss showing in the opening round, is determined to foil what is fast shaping up as a titanic finals encounter between Lyceum and San Beda.

But former pro star Vergel Meneses, the longest tenured tactician in the 10-team field, stressed the Heavy Bombers still have plenty of room for improvement if they intend to get back to the Final Four after missing the trip last year, let alone reach the finals for the first time since 2008.

“We’re not in the level yet of San Beda and Lyceum,” he admitted. “Even though we beat them in the first round, Letran is still a strong team. I’m just hoping we can sustain this (sharp form) in the second round.”

All signs, however, seem to point to a blockbuster titular showdown between the high-octane Pirates, good for at a league-leading 90.2 points per game, and the Red Lions who are thriving anew defensively by giving up just 64.3 markers per match – third best in the tourney.