THEY may be enjoying their best start in five years, but the Letran Knights are well aware they still have a long way to go.
The Knights continue their journey in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament when they stake their unbeaten record against the Mapua Cardinals on Monday at The Arena in San Juan in the league’s last playing day before heading into a two-week break for the Fiba-Asia Men’s Championship.
Losing finalists last year, the Knights are now the only remaining undefeated team in the league with six straight victories. They are currently ahead of Season 88 Finals conqueror San Beda, which runs a half-game behind with a 6-1 win-loss card.
Letran took great lengths to achieve its perfect record. Except for their 67-57 victory over Arellano last Thursday, the Knights have won all of their games by single digits, four of them by five points or less.
“We’re lucky to have a good start. Pero kahit 6-0 kami, hindi kami dapat maging complacent because it’s a long season,” Knights coach Caloy Garcia said.
And the Intramuros-based squad hopes to sustain its good fortune in their 4 p.m. encounter with the Cardinals.
Coached by Atoy Co, the Cardinals are currently tied with College of St. Benilde and Emilio Aguinaldo at the bottom of the 10-team pile with a 1-5 slate.
Boasting two of the most athletic players in the league in Kenneth Ighalo and Joseph Eriobu, the Cardinals hope to snap a four-game skid.
“Mapua’s dangerous,” Garcia said. “They have the height. They also have the quickness.”
The odds remain stacked in the Knights' favor though as they are bannered by MVP candidate Raymond Almazan – arguably the best big man in the NCAA today - and a solid supporting cast led by pint-sized playmaker Mark Cruz, rookie sensation Rey Nambatac, and veteran do-it-all forward Kevin Racal.
Emilio Aguinaldo aims to arrest its own three-game losing streak when it faces Lyceum in the second game of another double-header at 6 p.m.
The Pirates, tied with Arellano at 2-4, are coming off a 75-69 loss to Benilde in a game that marked the Blazers’ first victory after five straight heartbreaking losses this season.