Red Lions, Blue Eagles clash in Iloilo’s Dinagyang Fest

Collegiate basketball heavyweights San Beda Red Lions and Ateneo Blue Eagles measure swords in a charity game dubbed as “Dinagyang Classico, the Epic Battle,” to be held during the famous Dinagyang Festival in Iloilo City on January 17 at the University of San Agustin gymnasium, for the benefit of the typhoon Yolanda victims in Ajuy, Iloilo. Tip off is set at 6:30 p.m.

This early meeting between the two powerhouse teams should be a welcome treat for the people of Iloilo as both Ateneo and San Beda have been among the most popular teams in the country after ruling their respective leagues for several years. The Red Lions won their fourth straight NCAA title late last year and will be bringing the entire triumphant roster in Iloilo, including outgoing skipper Rome Dela Rosa. On the other hand, the Blue Eagles, which saw their five-year UAAP reign come to an end last year, will be parading some prized recruits in the exhibition game, including sensational former UAAP juniors MVP Jerie Pingoy.

But expected to steal the show are the players who trace their roots or hail from the province especially Ateneo star Kiefer Ravena, whose father Bong is undoubtedly one of the best products of Iloilo, and San Beda sophomore Richie Villaruz, who was discovered from Ateneo de Iloilo before he moved to La Salle Greenhills.

It will be interesting to see this early how the two elite basketball programs will fair against each other as they gear up for another exciting basketball season. San Beda will have an intact line up this year with only Dela Rosa graduating from the program, bolstering its chances of achieving a record tying five-peat in the NCAA. Meanwhile, Ateneo is reported to have overhauled its roster for this year after recruiting several top high school recruits. Among the reported junior prospects who will be donning the Blue and White jersey of Ateneo in the next UAAP season is San Beda hotshot Arvin Tolentino. Kiefer’s younger brother Thirdy has also committed to play for the Blue Eagles.

Joining Dela Rosa and Villaruz in the Iloilo game are Season 89 NCAA Finals MVP Arth Dela Cruz, Nigerian behemoth Ola Adeogun and spitfire Baser Amer. The rest of the Lions are Kyle Pascual, Ryusei Koga, Dan Sara, Yvan Ludovice, Anthony Semerad, Jaypee Mendoza, Francis Abarcar, Van Abatayo and Jun Bonsubre, with current NCAA Coach of the Year Boyet Fernandez leading the charge.

Workhorse Chris Newsome, the much-improved Von Pessumal, and steady playmaker Nico Elorde, along with Antonio Asistio, Francesco Asuncion, Peter Murphy, Isaac Lim, Gwyne Capacio, Manuel Tolentino, and African recruits Chibueze Ikeh and Tochukwu Ewenike, with Bo Perasol calling the shots, will back Ravena and Pingoy.

The charity game is presented by the Iloilo Dinagyang Foundation Inc. in partnership with the Iloilo City Government. Tickets are priced at 150, 50 and 25 pesos. Mr. Ruding Villaruz of the Office of the Youth and Sports division is the event director.

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