Tale of the underdogs

7 09 2007

REQUIRED to win twice to survive, host Jose Rizal University and Mapua Institute of Technology are both considered the Final Four’s “underdogs” this season.

The Heavy Bombers, who last reached the Final Four in 2001, and the Cardinals are needed to win twice to make to the Finals.

But Ariel Vanguardia, the JRU mentor, said he loves the situation of being an underdog.

“Though it has a disadvantage that you need to win twice, it also has its advantage,” said Vanguardia, who took the JRU coaching job last year. “My players will work hard to overcome the situation.”

The Knights downed the Heavy Bombers, 74-71, last Wednesday to claim the No.2 spot and the second twice-to-beat incentive while relegating the Heavy Bombers to No.3.

He admitted beating Letran twice is a tough nut to crack. “Yup it’s hard, but I know my team is ready for this kind of situation,” he said. “We are already here, so we are not going to give up.”

Vanguardia is expected to rely on John Sena, Mark Cagoco, Jayson Nocom, Marvin Hayes and John Wilson to upset the Knights in the Final Four series which will start September 12. Last July 20, JRU defeated Letran, 79-75.

Mapua head coach Leo Isaac, for his part, said there’s a huge possibility his team could pull-off an “upset” against reigning champion San Beda College.

The Red Lions only lost once in 12 games against Letran (70-69) last July 25.

“To be honest, I have doubts if we can make it to the Final Four during our slump,” said Isaac, who replaced veteran Horacio Lim in the off-season. “But I know my team can win in streaks. I was waiting for one win and it happened when we beat Letran.”

Mapua finished the first round of the elimination phase in the seven-team tournament with only two wins in six games.

But the Cardinals’ 89-82 win over the Knights ignited a four-game winning run in the second round.

After that victory, Mapua downed San Sebastian College, 80-71; University of Perpetual Help, 83-64; and College of St. Benilde, 84-71; to finish with an even 6-6 card to earn the fourth and last Final 4 berth.

While the Heavy Bombers needed a few days to re-charge themselves, the Cardinals will enter the semifinal stage coming from a long 20-day layoff.

“We’re the first team to finish the elimination (Aug.22 against CSB), that’s why we need several tune-up games so we will not be rusty,” said Isaac. “We can’t afford to be rusty against San Beda.”

The last time Mapua captured an NCAA title was in 1991, when the year the Cardinals completed a back-to-back championship campaign under Coach Joel Banal and with stalwarts like Benny Cheng, Gary Topacio, Winchester Lemen and Randy Alcantara.

Coach Isaac believes that if they remain focused, they have a strong chance of ending a 16-year title drought.

Leading the Cardinals attack is versatile guard Kelvin Dela Peña, a top MVP contender; shooting guard Sean Co, big man Jerby Del Rosario and rookie playmaker Jonathan Banal.

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One response

10 09 2007
math01

San Beda must be careful, if MAPUA can get a triple double again with Dela Pena and Sean co will attack and attack the basket and give Sam Ekwe a foul trouble. It can be a possibilty. But for the leagues sake, i prefer San Beda in the finals together with Letran. It will be a classic battle.

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