UNIVERSITY of Perpetual Help and Letran try to shore up their respective positions in the magic circle of four as they square off against separate opponents Saturday in the 88th NCAA men’s basketball tournament at The Arena in San Juan.
The Altas face league-leading San Beda Red Lions at 6 p.m., shortly after the Knights take on also-ran Emilio Aguinaldo College in the 4 p.m. opening game.
The Altas and the Knights currently share third place with similar 10-6 win-loss records. Between the two teams, Letran though, has a lighter assignment remaining in its schedule.
“We have one foot inside the Final Four,” said Knights coach Louie Alas, whose team faces another eliminated squad in Arellano in its final game of the season.
Perpetual meanwhile, still has second-running San Sebastian for its final assignment in the elimination round.
But the Altas will try to hurdle first the defending champion Lions, who are currently on top of the standings with a league-best 14-2 record.
A win by Perpetual would also keep Jose Rizal University lurking at fifth place with its 10-7 slate.
The Perpetual-San Beda game will be a rematch of their memorable overtime game in the first round of the eliminations won by the Altas. The match was best remembered for Baser Amer’s sensational buzzer-beating heave from the backcourt that capped a San Beda rally and sent the game into overtime.
“Malay mo, maka-swerte ulit kami,” said Altas coach Aric del Rosario as he evokes recollection of that dramatic Altas’ win
For sure, the Altas don’t mind being lucky for a second time especially with chief gunner Jet Vidal still doubtful for the game after he chipped his tooth following a hard collision in Perpettual Help’s 64-53 win over Lyceum in Subic last Tuesday.
Earl Thompson, who had 23 points, 15 boards, and five assists against the Lions in the first round, is again expected to lead the Altas’ attack in the event Vidal won’t suit up.
The Lions, however, remain as heavy favorites since they were without Nigerian center Ola Adeogun during their first-round meeting with the Altas.
Amer and Anjo Caram, who both finished in double figures during the Lions’ 65-41 stomping of Mapua also in Subic, will also be counted upon to duplicate their offensive numbers.