Do or die for Stags, Knights

November 04, 2019

LETRAN and San Sebastian try to keep their season alive as the NCAA men’s basketball step-ladder semifinals opens today at the Cuneta Astrodome.

The winner of the 4 p.m. match will face No. 2 Lyceum of the Philippines University in another knockout duel on Friday.

Four-peat seeking San Beda jumped straight to the championship round after sweeping all of its 18 games in the double-round eliminations.  The best-of-three series starts next Tuesday at the Mall of Asia Arena.

The Knights and the Stags split their elimination round head-to-head.

Minus coach Egay Macaraya, who was serving a one-game suspension and its ace guard RK Ilagan fouling out, San Sebastian nipped Letran, 102-101, in overtime last Aug. 20.

The Knights got their payback exactly a month later with a masterful 99-82 conquest of the Stags.

Letran is making its second straight Final Four appearance as the third-ranked team, while San Sebastian is back in the semifinals after missing the bus last year.

Jerrick Balanza, who along with Christian Balagasay were the only remnants of the 2015 Knights champion team that defied all the odds, simply don’t want to end his collegiate career.

All Balanza wants is to bring back Letran to the Finals and hopefully reclaim its old glory along with fellow senior Bonbon Batiller and big man Larry Muyang.

The Stags will rely on their top guns Ilagan and Allyn Bulanadi to go deeper in the season.

Bulanadi exploded for a season-high 44 points as San Sebastian turned back University of Perpetual Help System Dalta, 99-94, in a win that turned out to be the clincher for the remaining semis spot two weeks ago.