Blazers, Pirates battle for No. 2 spot and twice-to-beat edge

ENOCH VALDEZ was at the epicenter of the Pirates’ resurgence. — NCAA/SYNERGY-GMA

Games Friday(Filoil EcoOil Centre)12 p.m. — UPHSD vs SSC-R3 p.m. — CSB vs LPU

COLLEGE of St. Benilde (CSB) and Lyceum of the Philippines University (LPU) clash for the important No. 2 spot and the twice-to-beat edge that goes with it in the Final Four today in NCAA Season 98 at the Filoil EcoOil Centre.

The Blazers are currently at second with an 11-4 record while the Pirates are at No. 3 with a 12-5 mark and the winner in their 3 p.m. showdown would snatch the No. 2 spot where they would have a better chance of snagging one of the two important semis incentives.

Barely leading everyone were the Letran Knights, who own a 12-4 slate.

Both CSB and LPU were coming off morale-boosting triumphs with the former edging San Sebastian, 83-78, Tuesday and the latter routing Jose Rizal University, 79-62, Wednesday.

“We have to play harder because we need to get the win if we want to have a chance at No. 2,” said LPU coach Gilbert Malabanan.

The Pirates have also lost to the Blazers, 86-69, in their first-round meeting last Sept. 11.

But LPU was a different team back then and has picked up the pieces to string together a mighty upheaval that saw them storm into the top four and strong contention of claiming its breakthrough title since joining the league in 2011.

And Enoch Valdez was at the epicenter of the Pirates’ resurgence and has dished out big games after big games including a 21-point masterpiece in their most recent victory.

“He’s our workhorse and one of my leaders on the court,” said Mr. Malabanan of his energetic swingman.

For CSB mentor Charles Tiu, they hope to get to No. 2 to help push them closer to the absolute goal of claiming the school’s second championship since its last victory 22 years ago.

“It’s great, we’re happy and it’s one of our small goals,” said Mr. Tiu moments after steering his team to its first Final Four appearance in two decades. “Hopefully we can go past the Final Four and really make a run for the championship.

“Hopefully we mature and continue to grow as a team,” he added.

In a non-bearing duel at 12 p.m., University of Perpetual Help (UPHSD) (7-10) collides with San Sebastian (SSC-R) (6-9). — Joey Villar