Knights, Cardinals battle to keep NCAA headstart

By Joey Villar

LETRAN and co-leader Mapua part ways as the two collide on Friday even as San Beda stakes its unblemished record against San Sebastian in the 97th National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) basketball tournament at the La Salle Greenhills Gym.

The winner of the noon duel between the Knights and the Cardinals, who are unscathed in three starts, should keep their place at the helm alongside the Lions, assuming the Mendiola-based dribblers could hurdle the Stags in their 3 p.m. showdown.

Rhenz Abando is expected to carry the fight for the reigning titlist anew after unleashing a monster effort — 24 points, five rebounds, four assists, three steals and a block—in a 68-57 win over University of Perpetual Help on Sunday.

“We will treat every game as if it’s a championship game because we know it’s a short tournament,” said the prized 22-year-old transferee from University of Santo Tomas.

Letran will face a Mapua team out to gain respect after barging into a three-way tie for first despite going under the radar in the pre-season.

Mr. Abando should find a worthy foe in Mapua skipper Warren Bonifacio, who is not as flashy and as athletic as the former but boasts of grit and steely nerves as evident in the Cardinals’ 65-59 win over the Stags on Tuesday.

“We were just told to play hard, defend and do everything to help our team win,” said the 23-year-old San Simon, Pampanga native, who dropped a 16-point, 14-rebound effort in their most recent triumph.

San Beda, which was coming off a 67-53 win over Jose Rizal University (JRU) on Sunday, for its part, will gun for a fourth win in row against an SSC team that is eyeing to improve on its 1-2 card.