Both these teams factored into close games last season, but with the Cardinals coming out on top in both. In round one, fans were treated to an old-fashioned shoot-out between Allan Mangahas and Carlo Lastimosa, with Mangahas coming out on top, 25 to 21, 65-63 for their teams. In the second round, the supporting casts got involved, as Mapua finished with 5 Cardinals in double digits, while the Blazers had just three, resulting in a 64-59 win for the eventual fourth-placers.
Benilde Storyline : The rebuilding Blazers got Carlo Lastimosa back in their last game, but it didn't matter against San Sebastian as they sank to 0-2. Individually though, this squad does have some talent, but getting them to compliment each other has been the problem.
Stat to Watch : With or without Carlo Lastimosa, this is a squad that struggles to put points on the board, as they've shot just 38.84 percent (47/121) from the field, losing in every hustle point statistic as well. Forcing a few turnovers might net the Blazers some easy points, or barring that, some gang rebounding for offensive rebounds. The latter might be more realistic, what with Yousef Taha out.
Player to Watch : Paolo Taha (no relation) has been a solid role-player for the Blazers, averaging 10.5 points on 41 percent (7/12) shooting, 3.5 rebounds, 3 assists and a steal. He'll be tasked to stop one of Mapua's shooters, and if he can shut one of them down, then that helps the Benilde cause immensely.
Stat to Watch : The Cardinals got nearly nothing from their support guys, as Allan Mangahas and Yousef Taha did their best to carry the game, though they ultimately failed. Taking away Jonathan Banal's 6 fourth quarter points, which came too late to affect anything, no one besides Taha and Mangahas scored more than 7 points. Guys like Mark Sarangay, Neil Ranises, Josan Nimes and Jason Pascual will need to contribute more to get this team going.
Player to Watch : While Taha's been the most talked about Cardinals rookie, the sweet-shooting Fil-Am Josan Nimes actually has a lot more buzz online, including several YouTube clips of his high school games. He normed 7 points in pre-season action, but can theoretically go off for more. Playing the Blazers might be just the thing he needs to get into a groove.
Prediction: Mapua Cardinals