Lions, Chiefs start best-of-three series
By Joey Villar Updated Monday October 20, 2014 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - San Beda and Arellano University face off today in the opener of their best-of-three duel for the 90th NCAA men's basketball crown with the four-peat champion Lions seeking to extend their reign and the Chiefs seeking a breakthrough win.

Although the Lions boast of experience, odds remain just about even with the Chiefs raring to prove their worth, end the former's domination and hope to start their own.

Gametime is at 4 p.m. at the Mall of Asia Arena.

"This is what we worked hard for, so there is no turning back for us," said San Beda coach Boyet Fernandez.

Win or lose, the Lions are the most dominant team in the decade after making it to the finals for nine straight seasons, winning seven of the last eight crowns including the last four.

A title win by San Beda will put it alongside the San Sebastian Stags (1993-1997), the Mapua Red Robins (1968-1972) and San Beda Red Cubs (2009-2013) as the only NCAA teams with five straight championships.

"We're facing a dynasty but I'm praying destiny will smile on us in the end," Arellano U coach Jerry Codinera, also trying to become the fifth rookie coach in the last decade to win a championship after San Beda's Frankie Lim (2007), Ato Agustin (2009), Ronnie Magsanoc (2012) and Fernandez (2013).

Arellano U dished out a superb campaign in the double-round elims to tie San Beda for No. 1 spot before yielding the top seeding in a playoff. But the Chiefs downed the Jose Rizal U Bombers, 72-65, in the Final Four last Wednesday to advance to the finals for the first time since joining the league five years ago.

"The players are excited, I'm excited, the school is excited, everyone is excited because we finally made it to the finals," said Codinera.

The duel pits San Beda's league best defense against Arellano's vaunted offense.

"If we can slow them down, we'll have a chance," said Fernandez.

San Beda captain Kyle Pascual, a Fil-Am who is the only player in the current roster who was part of the team's last four titles, knows it's going to be one tough series.

"Compared to the first four years, this year is definitely the toughest," said the 24-year-old Pascual, who was drafted and should sign a contract with the NLEX Road Warriors in the PBA after the season.

Truly, San Beda's five losses in the elimination round this season were the most in the last four years as it has never lost more than three the last four.

The Lions' only reprieve was they routed the Chiefs, 97-69, in their playoff for the No. 1 Final Four seeding last Oct. 10 after the two split their first two matches in the double-round elimination round.

Nigerian Ola Adeogun will be out to vent his ire on Arellano U after losing the MVP award to Perpetual Help's Earl Scottie Thompson.

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Wednesday, October 8, 2014 @ San Juan Arena
12:00 PM - Game 1 - Jrs/Srs
4:00 PM - Game 2 - Srs/Jrs