The Golden Stags handily defeated the Cardinals twice last season. In round one, the Stags used a 21 to 4 fourth quarter run to crush Mapua, holding all but Erwin Cornejo to under 10 points, in a 68-49 win. Round two on the other hand, was a more high-scoring game, with multiple players on both teams getting into double-digits, but the one that stood out above the rest was Calvin Abueva, whose 27 points, 15 rebounds, four assists and two blocks led the Stags to an 85-76 win.
Stat to Watch : The Cardinals entered the game versus San Beda with an average of 42.33 rebounds per game, but extra effort and some three big men line-ups allowed them to dominate the glass to the tune of 54 boards. San Sebastian currently leads the league with 49.43 rebounds a game, so I would not be surprised if coach Victolero goes tall again. In the San Beda game, use of the zone forced the Cardinals back to their regular configuration, but the Stags' zone is not as tight as theirs, as seen in their game versus Arellano. That might mean Mapua can stick with its taller line-up longer.
Player to Watch : Yousef Taha may not have been able to score much against the Red Lions (just four points on 1 of 5 shooting) but he was an ace on the defensive end, pulling down 14 rebounds and blocking two shots. Taha will be the one assigned to stop Ian Sangalang, and if he can hold him to just a handful of points, that will increase the pressure on the other, more raw big men of the Stags to produce.
Stat to Watch : The Cardinals' waterloo has been the fourth quarter, where they've collapsed several times this season. Unfortunately for them, San Sebastian leads all teams in fourth quarter points with 22.43 markers. Mapua only scores 15.14 in the final period, a 7.29 advantage. If the Stags smell weakness, for sure they're going to pounce, knowing that any huge run will mean "oh no, not again..." running through the minds of the Cards.
Player to Watch : While all the focus has been on Abueva and to a certain extent, Sangalang for the improvements he's made from last season, Ronald Pascual has been the model of consistency with his 19.4 points, 4.7 rebounds. 2.6 assists and 0.7 blocks. The Cardinals will likely try guarding him with Kenneth Ighalo and Josan Nimes, but my feeling is that neither can really stop him, not that many teams out there have the personnel that can.
Prediction: San Sebastian Stags