Explosive matches seen in ‘NC’ kickoff
Joey Villar (The Philippine Star) - June 22, 2013 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - The NCAA officially begins the varsity season today with a pair of explosive matches – reigning three-peat champion San Beda taking on host St. Benilde and last year’s runner-up Letran colliding with San Sebastian before an expected full-house crowd at the MOA Arena in Pasay City.

The Lions, now handled by coach Boyet Fernandez, have brought back Fil-Aussie twins Anthony and David Semerad, making their already strong roster more formidable as they seek a fourth straight championship and seventh in the last eight seasons.

And the defending three-peat champions’ dynastic reign will start when they clash with a new-look Blazers, who also acquired a new mentor in Gabby Velasco vice Richard del Rosario while beefing up with talented promising players eager to prove their worth.

Gametime is at 4 p.m.

“We did everything possible to train and prepare well in achieving our main goal, which is to win the championship,” said Fernandez, whose wards also trained in US as part of their buildup for a four-peat.

An elaborate opening rites, which Bro. Dennis Magbanua, FSC, described as a “production number to remember,” at 3 p.m. will precede the San Beda-St. Benilde duel.

The Knights, out to bounce back from a two-game sweep by the Lions in last year’s finale, and the Stags tangle at 6 p.m. with the latter hard pressed to come up strong sans Calvin Abueva, Ronald Pascual and Ian Sangalang.

Games will be shown live on AksyonTV 41, a UHL channel of TV5.

San Beda will also try to nail an 18th championship after it broke out of a tie with Letran last year while Fernandez is eyeing his first collegiate crown after steering Sta. Lucia to a championship in the PBA and NLEX to four titles in five finals appearances in the PBA D-League.

The Semerads are also expected to make an impact in their return as they try to take charge following the graduation of Jake Pascual.

Fernandez, however, remains wary of the Blazers and their coach Gabby Velasco.

“I have high respect for him so we expect a tough battle,” said Fernandez of Velasco, whose multi-titled stints with St. Francis of Assisi produced players like the de Ocampo brothers Yancy and Ranidel.

Velasco, for his part, knows they need to neutralize Nigerian Ola Adeogun, the coaches’ early pick to lead the chase for this season’s MVP award.

“Ola Adeogun is the hands down best player in the league right now with Calvin Abueva out,” said Velasco.

Another team tipped to challenge San Beda for the crown is Letran, which lost prolific scorer Kevin Alas and veteran big man Jam Cortes, but got Raymond Almazan and talented rookie Rey Nambatac, who played high school ball for the Squires.

Alas opted to skip his last year of eligibility to focus on playing for Smart Gilas Pilipinas 2.0’s cadet team while Cortes has graduated.

“We’re lucky we have some veterans left in the team and we managed to plug those holes left by Kevin (Alas) and Jam (Cortes),” said Letran coach Caloy Garcia, one of the four rookie coaches this year.

Unlike the Knights, the Stags have practically lost the core of their team last year, leaving them with only team skipper Jovit dela Cruz and Bobby Baculanag.

But with Topex Robinson back as SSC coach and the Stags acquiring two talented rookies in Fil-Am Leo De Vera and Jaymar Perez, things could look up for the Recoletos-based squad.

“We’re a team that will rely mostly on our speed, outside shooting and hustling defense to make up for our lack of ceiling,” said Robinson.


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