UNIVERSITY of Perpetual Help tries to put its recent heartbreak behind when it takes on a College of St. Benilde side that has clearly moved on from its own misery in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament on Thursday at The Arena in San Juan.
Coming off a stunning 68-70 loss to Emilio Aguinaldo College last Thursday, the title-contending Altas seek to get back on the winning track as they take the court at 6 p.m. against the Blazers, who once suffered a string of close first-round losses that caused them to get stuck in the bottom of the 10-team pile.
Now tied in fifth place and clearly in the playoff hunt after winning five of their six games, the Blazers prove to be another tough challenge for the third-running Altas, who tote an 8-3 win-loss card.
“Hindi natin pwede biru-biruin yan. Yung nakaraan muntik na kami sa kanila,” Altas coach Aric del Rosario said of the Blazers, whose only loss in the last six games came against Perpetual. The Altas needed an extra five minutes to eke out a 90-89 victory in their last game of the first round.
“I felt we could’ve won that game,” Velasco said of the game, where the Blazers led by four points in the last two minutes of regulation before fading. “I hope it’s still fresh in the minds of my players.”
The defeat toughened the Blazers as they won their first two games in the second round, the last a 74-62 decision of struggling Mapua last Saturday.
“Siguro maganda na galing kami sa talo at sila panalo. Baka kami yung maging mas aggressive,” said Del Rosario, whose wards’ loss to the Generals snapped a three-game winning streak and dropped them to solo third instead of gaining a share of the lead.
Del Rosario will continue to count on a stellar bunch led by rookie sensation Juneric Baloria, hard-working forward Harold Arboleda, and Nigerian import Nicholas Omorogbe, while the Blazers lean on the triple threat of Mark Romero, Paolo Taha, and Jonathan Grey.
Meanwhile, Lyceum seeks to ride the momentum of a shock 80-76 win over league-leading Letran as it battles slumping Arellano in the first game at 4 o’clock.
The eighth-running Pirates hope to score a fifth victory in 12 games as they face the Chiefs, who have lost six of their last seven games and are near the cellar with a 3-8 slate overall.