LOSING twice to a potential Finals opponent before the Final Four is not a good sign for Arellano University.
But that is farthest in the mind of coach Jerry Codinera right now. The thing that keeps the Chiefs going is the twice-to-beat advantage that they worked hard to achieve in the eliminations where they finished second behind San Beda.
“Hindi na kami masyado sasama ang loob sa mga talo namin. Kailangang maging positive lang kami,” said Codinera.
Hoping to rebound from the back-to-back setbacks suffered from the hands of San Beda, Arellano goes for the kill against dangerous Mapua in the NCAA seniors basketball semifinals set today at the Mall of Asia Arena.
The second-ranked Chiefs need only to prevail in the 4 p.m. match to clinch their second championship appearance in three years and, possibly, another showdown with the Red Lions.
Also holding a twice-to-beat edge, San Beda guns for a 12th successive title round appearance as it tangles a familiar Final Four nemesis in University of Perpetual Help System Dalta in the curtain raiser at 2 p.m.
The Chiefs backcourt of Jiovanni Jalalon and Kent Salado may have very consistent all-season long, but Codinera noticed the alarming dip on slotman Lervin Flores’ game, especially in the second round.
Flores is expected to have his hands full on the Cardinals’ bullstrong center Allwell Oraeme, who is tipped to win a second consecutive MVP award.
“Nawawala siya sa mga distractions. First time ng bata sa ganitong mga adulation, sa ganitong stage sa buhay niya, ang Final Four. Nao-overwhelm so I try to tell him to focus,” said Codinera on Flores.
Arellano may have beaten Mapua twice in the eliminations, but for Codinera, Final Four is a different story.
Behind Oraeme and CJ Isit, the Cardinals rode on a strong second round showing to finish third and secure a second consecutive semis stint.
“Basketball is a game of adjustments, game of streaks and game of breaks. Kung sino ang maka-adjust, yun ang mananalo,” said Codinera.
The top seeded Lions made quick work of the Altas in their three previous Final Four meetings from 2012-14 and the Mendiola-based cagers hope to do it again.
Coach Jamike Jarin, however, downplayed the notion that San Beda is peaking at the right time despite losing slotman Donald Tankoua.
“I don’t want to say anything that will motivate our opponents,” said Jarin.
“I just want to thank the 15 young men around me, the few coaches that we have and the administration for winning and making it to No. 1. But everything is down the drain, it doesn’t matter where you are. The most important game is on Friday (today).”
Perpetual Help, which last made it to the Finals in 2004, hopes to extend its season with the return of Bright Akhuetie, who was suspended by the team in last week’s 63-67 defeat to Mapua.