Arellano U looks to repeat over Lyceum and close in on NCAA top 2 finish

With a killer stretch looming in the horizon, Arellano U is raring to gain a needed confidence-booster.

The reeling Lyceum Pirates could just be what the Chiefs have been looking for as they square off in a crucial encounter on Tuesday in the 92nd NCAA seniors basketball tournament at The Arena in San Juan City.

Derailed by Perpetual Help, 76-92 last Thursday, Arellano U (10-3) intends to repeat over Lyceum (5-9) in their 12 noon showdown, hoping to get back on track while keeping itself in the thick of the fight for a Top 2 spot that dangles twice-to-beat bonuses in the Final Four. 

The Chiefs turned back the Pirates 81-76 in their first-round encounter last August 2 and coach Jerry Codiñera is hoping they will earn the same result.

“Very crucial ang game na ‘to kasi it will set the tone going to the crucial stretch for us,” he told FOX Sports in a phone interview on Monday afternoon.

“If we win, it will give us a better outlook moving forward.”

Bunched with San Beda (11-3) and Perpetual Help (10-3) on top of the 10-team field, Arellano U is already setting its peripheral view on a dangerous road ahead where it will meet defending champion Letran (Sept. 9), Jose Rizal U (Sept. 13), Mapua (Sept. 20) and San Beda (Sept. 23), all of them Final Four contenders.

But that doesn’t mean the Chiefs are looking past the Pirates, who have dropped their last four matches and have a slim chance of making it to the semifinals.

“They have a steady import (in Mike Nzeusseu) and they have promising locals pati ‘yung mga guards nila,” said Codiñera. “We just have to start strong and finish stronger. We will be ready for whatever they will thrown on us.”

While top guards Jiovani Jalalon and Kent Salado are expected to lead the way, the Chiefs are sweating over the fitness of athletic big man Lervin Flores, who suffered an ankle sprain during the team’s practice on Sunday.

“Hopefully he’ll be better tomorrow,” said Codiñera, keeping his fingers crossed. “Pero siyempre kapag ang tao may nararamdaman, may chance magbago ang laro.”

Whether Flores could play or not, Codiñera is bent on helping the Chiefs realize their immediate task—getting back on the right track.

“There will be a challenge, there will be a struggle in every game. But we are not thinking about things that we cannot control. We’re just preparing ourselves mentally and physically to show up every game on a positive note,” he said. – Jerome Lagunzad

Follow this writer on Twitter: @JLFoxSports