LETRAN athletic director Fr. Vic Calvo O.P. wore a sheepish smile when he made a surprise visit to the press room on Thursday night shortly after Lyceum’s massive upset of Jose Rizal University in overtime in the 88th NCAA men’s basketball tournament.
The Dominican priest obviously could not hide his joy as the Bombers’ stunning loss allowed the Letran Knights to move up and tie JRU at 8-6 for fourth place in the standings.
“It’s a huge blessing,” Letran coach Louie Alas said later of the win.
Now the Knights try to take advantage of that huge break as the team goes for a win against San Sebastian Stags on Saturday in a crucial match at The Arena in San Juan that could make or unmake their Final Four aspiration.
The Knights, peaking at the right time, will go into the 6 p.m. encounter with added confidence following their 97-83 conquest of College of St. Benilde on Monday.
But at the same time, they are also cautious facing the second-running Stags (11-3), bannered by the deadly 'Pinatubo Trio' of Calvin Abueva, Ian Sangalang ang Ronald Pascual who are coming off a 77-62 hammering of Mapua also on Monday.
Triple-double machine Abueva is again expected to lead the Stags’ attack, along with MVP frontrunner Sangalang and gunner Pascual as the Recto-based team seeks to avenge its 74-80 loss to the Knights on opening day.
Knights star guard Kevin Alas, son of the Letran coach, said he relishes the opportunity of playing against Abueva, the league’s reigning MVP, especially that he’s coming off a career and league-high 35 points against the Blazers.
But the elder Alas said the potential matchup between two of the most explosive players in the league is a remote possibility. He said the defensive duties on the 6-foot-2 Abueva will mostly likely fall on the shoulders of athletic forward Kevin Racal, enforcer Jonathan Belorio, and fellow big man Jam Cortes.
“But anyway, we switch our defense most of the time so Kevin could end up guarding Abueva at some point,” said Alas, whose Knights are seeking a third straight win.
Two hours earlier, league-leading San Beda seeks at least a playoff for a Final Four spot as it takes on Emilio Aguinaldo College.