AFTER cruising to two consecutive victories, San Sebastian's worth as a title contender will be put to a big test this week by facing the finalists in the last two seasons -- Lyceum of the Philippines University and San Beda.
With everyone in the same page right now, coach Egay Macaraya hopes that the Stags will continue to live up to their lofty pre-tournament billing.
“We’re showing a new character of San Sebastian. We have a new focus and goal, sana mawala na lahat ’yung distraction. I’m happy and proud na kahit maliliit kami we’re doing fine,” said Macaraya.
Priming up for their much-anticipated clash with the Red Lions later in the week, the Stags take on the Pirates at 2 p.m. today in the resumption of the NCAA men's basketball tournament at the Filoil Flying V Centre.
San Sebastian is currently level with idle College of Saint Benilde at 2-0 behind four-peat seeking San Beda's league-leading 3-0 mark, while LPU is not far behind with a 2-1 slate.
As Allyn Bulanadi is slowly getting back his old deadly offensive form to form the dreaded 1-2 punch with RK Ilagan, the Stags are determined to rebound from last year's misfortunes.
“I hope na we will stay as a family and as a team together, walang madisgrasya, walang mainjure, mawala yung distractions and all those things because sayang naman ang preparation at pinaghirapan namin,” said Macaraya.
In other games, Letran shoots for its fourth straight victory as it plays Emilio Aguinaldo College at 4 p.m., while Jose Rizal University seeks to follow up its breakthrough win against Arellano University as it tangles with University of Perpetual Help System Dalta at 12 noon.
The humbling loss to the Generals last week served as a wake-up call for Pirates coach Topex Robinson, and LPU responded with a 79-71 win over Mapua last Friday.
"Personally, I apologized to the team. The moment we stopped enjoying the game, that was our downfall. It was a learning experience for me," said Robinson.
Incidentally, some of the Pirates players who were formerly under Macaraya led by Jayson David will go up against their former team for the first time.
"Playing against San Sebastian will be always something special for me. I'm happy from where they are right now. I'm a proud Sebastinian and I will always be," said Robinson.
"At the end of the day, it is good for all of us."
Despite being inside the top four range, coach Bonnie Tan knows that the Knights are still a work in progress as proven by last Friday's 82-80 overtime win over the Altas.
"Honestly yes. Nakita ko na yung potential ng team nitong pre-season, hinahanap ko pa iyon," said Tan.