NCAA Season 89 unfolds

San Beda College commences its campaign for a fourth straight title with a bout against host Saint Benilde College while title contenders San Sebastian College-Recoletos Stags and Letran Knights square off on Saturday in the opening

of the 89th National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) seniors basketball tournament at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City.

The Red Lions, the winningest team in the oldest collegiate league in the country with 17 titles, take on the Blazers at 4 p.m. while the Stags and the Knights clash at 6 p.m.

An opening ceremony will usher the start of the season at 3 p.m.

New Red Lions coach Boyet Fernandez, who replaced Ronnie Magsanoc, expressed confidence that the Mendiola-based squad can hurdle the challenges in their quest to become the first team in 17 years to win four championships in a row.

San Beda almost did it under coach Frankie Lim in 2006 to 2008 but the Stags foiled their attempt in 2009.

Top contender Letran with 16 titles, will also parade a new coach in the person of Caloy Garcia, the assistant coach of Rain or Shine.

Veteran players Mark Cruz, Raymund Almazan, Jonathan Belorio, Franz Dysam, Kevin Racal, Jamil Joseph Gabawan and Reynaldo Publico will spearhead the campaign for the Knights, who won the championship for the last time in 2005.

“I told my players that being a Stags is a huge responsibility because it has a huge championship history, said Topex Robinson, assistant coach of Alaska, who is returning as mentor of the Stags.

Though the Stags will miss the deadly trio of Calvin Abueva, Ronald Pascual and Ian Sangalang this season, Robinson said that the squad will rely on their vast championship experience in their hunt for a 14th title.

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