UNIVERSITY of Perpetual Help seeks to keep in step with the leaders of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament as it squares off with a surging College of St. Benilde on Monday at The Arena in San Juan.
The third-running Altas face the Blazers, currently on a three-game winning streak, in the 6 p.m. main game on National Heroes Day, just before San Sebastian takes on Lyceum two hours earlier.
The doubleheader was originally scheduled last Monday, but was moved due to inclement weather caused by typhoon 'Maring.'
The third-running Altas have lost only two of their eight games, emerging as legitimate title contenders with the impressive play of an audacious bunch led by Rookie of the Year frontrunner Juneric Baloria.
A victory by the Las Piñas-based dribblers against the Blazers will enable them to grab a share of second place with defending champion San Beda entering the second round of competition.
“Satisfied ako (sa simula namin), pero meron pang isa sa first round, yung Benilde,” Altas coach Aric del Rosario said. “Hindi natin pwede biruin yun. Kailangan paghandaan rin.”
Coming off a statement 80-66 victory over front-running Letran - the Knights’ first and only loss in the first round - the Altas face a dangerous team in the Blazers, one of the league’s hottest teams.
After starting the season with a string of heartbreaking results, the Blazers are finally playing beautiful music in their first season under veteran mentor Gabby Velasco, none more evident than their highest-scoring game of the season, an 84-64 rout of hapless Mapua two Saturdays ago.
Meanwhile, San Sebastian star guard Jamil Ortuoste remains day-to-day as the Stags take on a fellow undermanned squad in Lyceum at 4 p.m.
The Golden Stags, sitting in fifth place with an even 4-4 win-loss card, will again miss their leading scorer in Ortuoste, who’s sidelined with a sprained left ankle.
“We don’t want to gamble on him,” Stags coach Topex Robinson said on Sunday.
The Pirates, who are near the bottom with only two wins to show against six losses, are still without suspended offensive sparkplug Dexter Zamora as they eye to snap a five-game skid.