By REYNALD MAGALLON
Twice-to-beat Letran and Mapua hope to make quick work of their respective foes and arrange a mouth-watering “Battle of Intramuros” in the NCAA Season 97 semifinals Sunday at the FilOil Flying V Centre Arena in San Juan.
The top-seed Knights take on the red-hot Perpetual Help Altas at 12 noon while the second place Cardinals aim to assert their mastery over the San Beda Red Lions in the 3 p.m. showdown.
Although heavily favored, Letran, which secured the semifinals seat via a clean sweep of the eliminations, should be wary of the dangerous Perpetual side which survived three grueling do-or-die matches to take the semis seat.
The Altas took down EAC Generals to secure a play-in spot before beating Arellano and upsetting College of St. Benilde to survive the play-in and book a dance with the defending champions.
“It’s a privilege to play against them kasi No. 1 team in the league. Walang talo kumbaga it’s gonna be a good experience and opportunity for my players, for me, so i-savor namin yun ieenjoy namin yun and hopefully makatsamba kami on Sunday,” said Altas head coach Myk Saguiguit.
All eyes will be on the Knights star Rhenz Abando who dropped a career-high 24 points apart from posting five rebounds, four assists and three steals in their 68-57 demolition of the Altas in the eliminations.
Meanwhile, the Cardinals, who beat the Red Lions for the No. 2 seed by virtue of their 68-57 triumph in the eliminations, look to deal another heartbreaker to the last season’s runners-up.
San Beda’s loss to Mapua proved to be costly as it missed out on the twice-to-beat edge for the first time in 17 years. A loss today for the Red Lions could also mean that they will be missing the Finals for the first time in the last 14 editions of the NCAA centerpiece.
Also a cause of concern for the Red Lions is the health of top gun James Kwekuteye who failed to finish their 63-57 victory over the Blazers in the play-in due to an ankle injury.
They will be facing off against the well-rested Cardinals led by Paolo Hernandez and Warren Bonifacio.