NCAA: STAGS OPEN 3-PEAT BID VS KNIGHTS

MANILA, September 17, 2003 (STAR) By Joey Villar  - Reigning champion San Sebastian goes for its third title in a row and bragging rights as the very best on the collegiate front against a Letran team which has the arsenal to stop its rivalís reign in Game One today of their best-of-three duel for the 79th NCAA basketball crown at the Rizal Memorial Coliseum.

The Stags are expected to lean on championship experience and brandish the kind of maturity needed to survive the pressure of a title series while the Knights have the quickness and the heart to go all the way when the two clash at 4 p.m.

San Sebastian and Letran split their elims matches at one game apiece with the former prevailing in the second round, 63-61, and the latter winning in the first round, 74-64.

Odds, however, should favor the Stags, who beat the Jose Rizal Bombers, 81-73, in the Final Four, but the Knights remain a force to reckon with following their 72-66 decision over the Mapua Cardinals in the semis.

San Sebastian coach Arturo Valenzona, responsible for six of the schoolís second best 11 titles overall behind Letranís 13, said the short series is about even.

"Sa tingin ko patas lang dahil ang labanan dito patapangan. Kung sino mas malakas ang loob sila ang mananalo," said Valenzona.

San Sebastianís bid, however, hinges on the performance of its sophomore center Clark Moore.

A member of the team that won back-to-back titles the last two seasons, the 6-foot-7 Fil-Am powered the Stags in winning six of their last seven games.

Letran mentor Louie Alas hopes to neutralize the talented Moore with a tough defense behind the trio of Frederick Rodriguez, Kris Reyes and rookie Jonathan Pinera.

"Bukod sa championship experience, alam naman nating mas malaki sila kaya kailangan namin tibayan ang depensa sa loob," said Alas.

Letranís key man remains the prolific Ronjay Enrile whose wondrous shooting touch and resolute defense have helped the Knightsí romp into the finals where they have a chance to regain the title they last won three years ago.

And the 20-year-old Enrile, a former NCAA high school MVP, knows the kind of pressure and responsibility that await him.

"Siguro ito talaga ang role ko sa team, ang dalhin sila sa balikat ko," said the Cainta-based cager who is making his first ever appearance in the seniors finals.


Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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