San Beda College is gunning for a three-peat in the NCAA while University of the East is aching to slay the ghost of a shocking collapse in the UAAP championship last year.
But are they ready to accomplish their goals?
That will be answered today when the Warriors and Red Lions dispute the 2nd Fil-oil Flying V Invitational championship at The Arena in San Juan City.
Game time is set at 3 p.m. with the Red Lions slightly favored to win the title because of the presence of former Rookie and MVP winner San Ekwe and exciting tandem of Ogie Menor and Pong Escobal.
Clashing at 1 p.m. are UAAP champion La Salle and Adamson who are relegated to a similar knockout match for third place.
Before annexing their second NCAA plum last year, the Red Lions also made it to the finals of the same tournament last year but were denied of a championship by the Archers.
This time, however, San Beda mentor Frankie Lim promised it won’t happen again.
"That’s already a thing of that past and we’ll make sure we’ll win this time. We’ve been playing well lately and we hope to sustain it," said Lim, whose wards reached the finals by edging La Salle, 87-75, in a match marred by a near fistfight between La Salle mentor Franz Pumaren and some San Beda fans after the final buzzer.
The Warriors can’t be taken for granted despite their bitter experience last in the UAAP where they completed a 14-game sweep of the elims only to be beaten twice in a row by La Salle in the championship.
Coach Dindo Pumaren said they have already recovered their senses from that defeat and are now looking forward to winning the championship, which is part of their preparation for the coming UAAP wars.
The Warriors made it to the finals by downing the Adamson Falcons in overtime, 73-63.
"We’ll play our usual game, no adjustments. But we’ll make sure this game won’t be a walk in the park for our opponents," said UE mentor Dindo Pumaren, who will have Hans Thiele, Fahdzmir Bandaying, James Martinez and Marcy Arelleno to carry the scoring load.
Pumaren admits that San Beda has the height advantage over his team, but bowed to use their quickness to offset the disparity in size.
Collegiate champions De La Salle and San Beda College came through with contrasting victories yesterday to lead two other squads into the semifinals of the 2nd Filoil Flying V Pre-Season Invitational Cup at The Arena in San Juan City.
The undermanned Archers, the reigning UAAP champions, lost another key player but not a beat to rout the Mapua Cardinals, 91-66, while the Red Lions, back-to-back NCAA titlists, needed an extra period to outlast the Far Eastern University Tamaraws, 97-94.
The Archers, already missing the services of injured JV Casio and Bader Malabes, saw rookie Jonathan Webb get ejected in the third quarter after a fight with the Cardinals’ Kelvin dela Peña.
The victories set up the Archers and the Lions to a Final 4 meeting tomorrow.
Earlier, University of the East repulsed Jose Rizal University, 84-78 to claim the first semis seat in Group A.
Hans Thiele and Elmer Espiritu stepped up big time for the Warriors. After the Bombers threatened at 73-78, the two Warriors hit crucial jumpers in the final two minutes to lift UE to victory.
James Martinez sizzled for 18 points, highlighted by 5-of-7 shooting from beyond the arc, to lead the Warriors while Thiele and Espiritu, who both scattered five markers in the final frame, had 16 and 10, respectively.
The Warriors will face Adamson, which surprised Ateneo, 80-77, in the nightcap, at 2 p.m. tomorrow.
The Red Lions, meanwhile, had to bank on a jumper by Sam Ekwe with just 3.1 ticks left to force the overtime, 86-86.
Chico Tirona and Ogie Menor then took over from there,
giving the Lions a 92-86 lead that kept them on top until the final buzzer.
But as the Taft Avenue-based dribblers threatened to blow the Cardinals away, things started to get hot and this resulted in Webb being sent out for a fighting foul on Dela Peña with 1:04 left in the third quarter.
La Salle coach Franz Pumaren and acting Mapua mentor Danny Gavieres, who pinched in for Leo Isaac, then exchanged words and were assessed technical fouls.
Undaunted by the loss of another man, the Archers used this as a rallying point for a fiery fourth period run that saw them stretch a 68-59 third period lead to what it was at the end.
Quarters: 26-17, 46-34, 63-53, 84-73.
Quarters: 29-18, 43-40, 68-59, 91-66.
Quarters: 19-13, 34-42, 62-67, 86-86 (Reg.), 97-94 (OT)
Quarters: 16-15, 31-31, 59-52, 80-77.
The eight surviving teams in the 2nd Fil-Oil Flying V Pre-Season Invitational Cup basketball tournament will try to lock up spots in the semifinal round as hostilities resume today at The Arena in San Juan.
Defending champion La Salle, which finished No.1 in Group B, and runner-up San Beda went different routes in their last assignments and will take on separate foes even as University of the East and Ateneo de Manila also try to change their fortunes and secure berths in the Final Four in today's four-game quarterfinal round.
The Archers, who pulled off a tense 78-72 overtime win over archrivals Ateneo Eagles last Saturday, take on the unpredictable Mapua Cardinals, the No. 4 team in Group B, at 2 p.m.
How much energy left on La Salle’s tank after a gripping win over Ateneo will be known today against Mapua, one of the surprise quarterfinalists in this tournament backed by Total Metro Oil, Canopy Homes, Flying V Biodiesel Premium, Smart, Boysen, Bayo, Metathione, Padi’s Point, CDO, Reyes Barbecue, Tanduay, Burlington, Chowking, Ecology Marine Transport Specialist, Inc., Diamond Purified Drinking Water, and Nike, the official ball, and Happy Feet, the official after sportswear.
With the Archers peaking in form, the Cardinals are in for a tough battle. But the Intramuros-based dribblers are playing with nothing to lose and no less than spoiling the Archers’ title retention bid will be foremost on their minds.
The Lions, who dropped a heartbreaking 82-87 overtime loss to the Stags of San Sebastian last week, are aching to get back in championship contention against the No. 3 seed Far Eastern University Tamaraws at 4 p.m.
But beating an FEU squad that has improved by leaps and bounds won’t be easy.
Ask Dindo Pumaren, head coach of University of the East, whose team lost to the souped-up Tamaraws squad for only its second loss in seven games in the tournament.
"It’s an entirely different FEU team now," said Pumaren. "We thought we could beat them, but they simply won’t crack. They have definitely matured and they knew exactly how to deal with pressure-laden games."
The Warriors, who finished No.1 in Group A, battle the Jose Rizal Heavy Bombers in the first game at 12 noon.
Ateneo, the No.2 seed in Group A, takes on dangerous Adamson University in the final match of the day set at 6 p.m.