PERPETUAL Help hopes to keep its unblemished record intact and stay on top of the leaderboard when it takes on San Sebastian on Monday in the 88th NCAA men’s basketball tournament at The Arena in San Juan.
The Altas have won their first two games for their best start in years — first against league newcomers Lyceum then over traditional favorite Letran — for a share of the early lead with Jose Rizal University.
They are expected to face their toughest test yet against the Stags, perennial title contenders who are off to a shaky start to the season and are looking to steady their game.
The Stags, with the “Pinatubo Trio” of Calvin Abueva, Ronald Pascual and Ian Sangalang leading the attack, are 1-1 but are favored in their 4 p.m. matchup with the Altas.
“Pag nag-kumpiyansa sila sa amin, tingnan natin, baka maka-singit kami ulit (ng panalo),” said Altas coach Aric del Rosario, whose team is coming off a 69-66, win over Letran last Saturday.
Earl Thompson starred for the Altas against the Knights as the Digos City native registered 14 points, seven rebounds and four blocks. His layup with less than three minutes remaining also gave his team a 68-60 advantage, enough cushion to withstand Letran’s late run.
The Stags finally won their first game of the tournament, a 95-93 squeaker over College of St. Benilde also last Saturday.
Abueva, the reigning MVP, came up with his usual numbers for the Stags against the Blazers with 23 points, a career-high-tying 23 rebounds, and six assists.
Defending champion San Beda seeks its second win when it battles Lyceum in the second game at 6 p.m.
The Lions, who defeated Arellano University, 81-71, last June 24 with only six players, welcome the return of Rome dela Rosa, Jake Pascual, Anjo Caram, Baser Amer, Kyle Pascual, Jaypee Mendoza, Ryusei Koga, and Melo Lim from one-game suspensions.
The Pirates, led by Chris Cayabyab, Shane Ko, and Rich Guevarra, are still looking for their first win in three outings.
In the juniors’ division, the San Sebastian Staglets face the Perpetual Altalettes at 12 p.m., while the San Beda Red Cubs and the Lyceum Junior Pirates collide at 2 p.m.