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Wild race for last semis slot in ‘NC’

By Jerome Lagunzad

Games Today
(The Arena, San Juan City)
12 noon – Arellano vs Perpetual (Jrs)
2 p.m. – Arellano vs Perpetual (Srs)
4 p.m. – CSB vs EAC (Srs)
6 p.m. – LSGH vs EAC (Jrs)

There’s only one Final Four berth remaining in the 93rd NCAA seniors basketball tournament, but there are four teams still fighting for it going to the final week of the elimination round.

Letran, still holding the fourth – and final playoff – spot with an even 8-8 record, has an inside track for the coveted place while host San Sebastian and last year’s losing finalist Arellano University remain in strong contention with identical 7-9 cards.

Even Emilio Aguinaldo College, initially ruled out of the playoff race with a 6-10 mark at seventh spot, looks to have gained a new lease of life after Letran and San Sebastian suffered a pair of tough losses recently.

The Knights, smarting from a 69-81 setback dealt by the pacesetting Lyceum Pirates last Friday, have the chance to put a foot inside the semifinal round – and totally eliminate the Generals from contention – if they can at least split their last two matches.

Letran will take on its archrival, defending champion San Beda, tomorrow and will finish its elimination round campaign against also-ran St. Benilde on Tuesday.

A sweep of their final two games will enable the Knights to make a return trip to the Final Four and second-year coach Jeff Napa likes their chances.

“Ever since naman talaga sa pagbuo ng team na ‘to, malayo ang mararating namin,” he said.

San Sebastian, loser of its last three matches, should find a way to turn things around sooner than later as it takes on a pair of eliminated teams, against Mapua tomorrow and Perpetual Help on October 19.

Resurgent Arellano, despite a sluggish showing in the opening round, is still in the mix ahead of its two crucial matches against Perpetual Help today and Mapua on Tuesday.

The Chiefs, however, are sweating over the fitness of top guard Kent Salado, who appeared to have hyperextended his right knee in the course of their all-important 85-79 win over the Golden Stags last Tuesday.

“We just have to be ready,” said Arellano coach Jerry Codiñera. “I think kung ano man ang opportunity na ibibigay sa amin, we will take it with or without Kent.”