A COMPLETE San Beda crew and an emerging University of Perpetual Help squad both target the solo lead when they see action against separate opponents on Thursday in the 88th NCAA men’s basketball tournament at The Arena in San Juan.
The defending champion Lions and the Altas are currently tied with San Sebastian and Jose Rizal University at the top spot with similar 3-1 slates.
And the Lions, finally activating controversial Nigerian Ola Adeogun, try to separate themselves from the pack as they face Emilio Aguinaldo Generals at 4 p.m. while the Altas are also looking to register win No. 4 as they battle College of St. Benilde in the main game at 6 p.m.
The towering Adeogun missed the first four games of the season as he served out the suspension for his role in the brawl that erupted between San Beda and San Sebastian players in the offseason.
Kyle Pascual and Jake Pascual have been proficiently handling their job as the last line of defense for the Lions in Adeogun’s absence. The former had 12 points and seven boards while the latter registered 10 points, 13 rebounds and two blocks in the Lions’ 59-53 win over the Blazers last Monday.
The presence of the 6-foot-8 Adeogun is expected to further shore up the Lions’ frontline.
“Ola will provide us the size and power we lack,” Lions coach Ronnie Magsanoc said.
Adeogun is expected to be matched up against the Generals’ Cedric Happi Noube, the 6-foot-7 Cameroonian who has been a double-double machine for the Generals -- the latest coming in a 63-67 loss to Mapua last week when Noube registered 21 points and 11 rebounds.
Noube is again counted upon to provide those types of numbers as the 1-3 Generals try to get out of the cellar.
A week after their awe-inspiring overtime triumph versus the Lions, the Altas are now aware that all eyes are on them.
“Nung nanalo kami sa San Beda, alam namin na paghahandaan na kami,” said Altas mentor Aric del Rosario, who will rely on gunners Jet Vidal and Earl Thompson.
The Blazers, on the other hand, have had an up-and-down season so far with a 2-3 slate, although their record doesn’t reflect their true standing as most of the losses have all been close.
In juniors’ play, the San Beda Red Cubs take on the Emilio Aguinaldo Brigadiers at 12 p.m., while the Perpetual Help Junior Altas face the St. Benilde Greenies at 2 p.m.