89th NCAA season on Saturday: Lions open 4-peat bid vs Blazers
Joey Villar (The Philippine Star) - June 19, 2013 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - The Red Lions kick off their drive for a fourth straight championship with a new coach, facing host the St. Benilde Blazers at 4 p.m. while last year’s runner-up Letran, also handled by a new mentor, takes on a new-look San Sebastian side in the 6 p.m. main game of an explosive twinbill ushering in Season 89 with a theme “Our Stars Will Shine.”

“This year’s theme changes the notion of being a star – from just being a superior athlete to a person who is grounded with integrity, honor and humility,” said league president Bro. Dennis Magbanua, FSC, of St. Benilde in yesterday’s press launch at the MOA Arena.

“We shift the focus from being one star in the dark to a star that enables others to shine. Above all, we wish to emphasize the star that guides and leads people to their dreams and aspirations for the good of all,” he added.

AksyonTV 41 will be the new carrying station with the league promising “an opening number to remember.”

The TV5’s UHF channel hopes to duplicate, if not surpass, the significant gains made by AKTV on IBC13 last season that marked the first of a three-year partnership between TV5 and the country’s oldest collegiate league.

This marks the third time that the league is changing channel from old partner Studio 23, also a subsidiary channel of TV giant ABS-CBN, to AKTV on IBC13.

Vito Lazatin, who heads TV5’s sports arm, said they’re doing everything to improve AksyonTV 41’s reach to the provinces.

“We’re in the process of improving our reach to everyone in the country, it is in the works,” said Lazatin.

TV5 will be clashing with network rival ABS-CBN, which airs the UAAP on Studio 23, only for Saturday games after the UAAP changed its usual Thursday playdate to Wednesday.

The NCAA’s other schedules are Mondays and Thursdays.

Magbanua, meanwhile, ruled out the possibility of game-fixing, saying the league will be “value-oriented” this season.

“We haven’t heard of any case of game-fixing now for the reason that we’re not dealing with it and it is not an issue for us now,” said Magbanua. “We encourage not just to our school but the rest of the NCAA member schools to instill the value of playing fair.

“We will work on it if rumors like that are indeed true but for now, it’s not an issue at the moment,” he added.

The NCAA also welcomed Arellano U as its new regular member, joining San Beda, Letran, San Sebastian, Jose Rizal, Mapua, Perpetual and St. Benilde. EAC and Lyceum remain the league’s guest teams.

Interestingly, half of the current crop of coaches are new, including Boyet Fernandez of San Beda, Atoy Co of Mapua, Caloy Garcia of Letran, Gabby Velasco of St. Benilde and comebacking Topex Robinson of San Sebastian.

The rest of the coaches are Gerry Esplana of Emilio Aguinaldo, Boni Tan of Lyceum and Vergel Meneses of Jose Rizal, Aric del Rosario of Perpetual Help and Koy Banal of Arellano U.

Joe Lipa remains the league commissioner.

ARELLANO U ATOY CO OF MAPUA BONI TAN OF LYCEUM AND VERGEL MENESES OF JOSE RIZAL BOYET FERNANDEZ OF SAN BEDA CALOY GARCIA OF LETRAN DENNIS MAGBANUA GABBY VELASCO OF ST. BENILDE GERRY ESPLANA OF EMILIO AGUINALDO JOE LIPA SAN SEBASTIAN
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