Atoy Co worried as Mapua Cardinals suffer big dip in form ahead of NCAA Final Four
Mapua coach Atoy Co says the Cardinals need to improve or they will be clobbered by Arellano and Perpetual Help in their final two games in the eliminations. Jerome Ascano

AS the NCAA Season 92 basketball tournament enters the crucial stretch, Atoy Co is left scratching his head as the Cardinals scrape through to the Final Four.

Co said he is really pleased to make the playoffs, but having to scrape past a winless College of St. Benilde doesn’t help his confidence as the tournament shifts to high gear.

The Blazers stayed within striking distance for the most part of the game before the Cardinals pulled away in the final minutes.

Mathematically the Cardinals can still take a top two spot and a twice-to-beat edge. Co stressed the chances are dim with the way they are playing.

See Mapua survives scare from winless Benilde to complete Final Four cast]

"I'm happy, but dumaan kami sa butas ng karayum ngayon," said Co. "In the Final Four, we cannot afford to play that game. Dapat from the start we have to be there."

At 11-5, there is still a chance for Mapua to move up the leaderboard, but it definitely won't be easy as the Cardinals face in-form Arellano and Perpetual in their last two assignments.

"Yes we know that (na pwede mag-twice-to-beat). Pero kung ganito laro namin, paano kami mag-twice to beat?" said the outspoken mentor, whose team will take on the Chiefs at 2 p.m. on Tuesday.

"If we play this kind of game, tatambakan kami ng AU. Do you see how sharp AU is playing now?" said Co, making special mention of Arellano star Jio Jalalon. 

Co, though, is hoping this will serve as wake-up call for his wards. 

"Alam kong papasok naman sa Final Four kaya lang di naman dapat ganun. Sana blessing in disguise to para makapag-focus at mag work harder mga players," he said.

Follow the writer on Twitter: @janbballesteros