UNIVERSITY of Perpetual Help and Jose Rizal University try to prevent their notable seasons from going down the drain as they battle for the last Final Four berth in the 88th NCAA men’s basketball tournament at The Arena in San Juan on Thursday.
The playoff match is slated at 6 p.m. with the winner earning the right to face top seed and defending champion San Beda in the Final Four on Saturday at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.
No. 2 seed San Sebastian and no. 3 Letran headline the other semifinal pairing, with the Stags enjoying a twice-to-beat advantage.
The Altas and Heavy Bombers took different paths during the season, but ended up tied at the end of the eliminations with similar 10-8 win-loss cards.
Dormant for several seasons, the Altas rose to respectability this year under veteran mentor Aric del Rosario.
Led on the court by senior gunner Jett Vidal and sophomore swingman Earl Thompson, the Altas were able to put up their first winning record in eight years.
On the other hand, the Bombers have been a team without a bonafide superstar, but relied on their trademark defense to come up with surprising wins for most of the season.
But after finishing the first round with a piece of the lead at 7-2, the Bombers began to cool down, winning just three of their last nine games and putting in jeopardy their hopes of a sixth straight Final Four appearance.
The two semifinal aspirants split their head-to-head encounter this season at 1-1. The Bombers beat the Altas, 64-59, in the first round, before Perpetual exacted revenge with an 88-72 victory in the second round.
Del Rosario reminded his wards to display the same energy and mentality they had in their second-round meeting against the Bombers.
“Wag niyo sabihin na tinalo niyo ng sixteen points yan. Kailangan trabahuhin niyo pa rin yan,” said Del Rosario.
In the juniors’ division, College of St. Benilde and Letran collide at 4 p.m. in a similar playoff for the third seed in the semifinals.