JOSE Rizal University may just be a win away from matching its win total in last year’s NCAA men’s basketball tournament, but coach Vergel Meneses definitely wants his players to look at the bigger picture.
Meneses is aware the Heavy Bombers are in a good position to finally end the school’s 38-year championship drought – easily the longest among the current member teams in the league.
The Bombers last won the title in 1972 behind a team composed of the brother tandem of Philip and David Cesar, Cris Calilan, Jimmy Santos, and Ed Carvajal.
“It’s a long way to go,” admitted Meneses, himself a former Heavy Bombers great of a past era.
The Bombers hope to maintain their sights on that goal as they take on the University of Perpetual Help Altas when the 88th season of the league resumes on Monday at The Arena in San Juan.
The Bombers are currently in third place with an 8-3 record, and a win over the Altas in their 6 p.m. tussle would tie them in second spot with idle San Sebastian.
The Stags see action two hours later when they tangle with the Blazers of St. Benilde College.
A win would also strengthen JRU’s bid for a sixth straight Final Four appearance.
At the same time, the Bombers are also wary of the Altas, a hungry squad that last made the semifinals in 2004, but is now experiencing a resurgence under multi-titled collegiate coach Aric del Rosario.
“They’re playing very organized right now. Disciplined ang players,” Meneses said of the Altas, who are not far behind at fourth place with a 7-4 win-loss slate.
Led by gunner Nate Matute and the defensive pair of John Lopez and Michael Mabulac, the Bombers are considered the slight favorites over the Altas owing to their 64-59 victory over the same team in the first round.
Perpetual is again expected to be led by marksman Jet Vidal and versatile wingman Earl Thompson
In the first game, the Stags welcome the return of volatile reigning MVP Calvin Abueva from a one-game suspension as they face a Blazers team fresh from its first win in five games.
The second-running Stags, who have nine wins to show against three losses, banked on ever-reliable big man Ian Sangalang, and a rejuvenated Ronald Pascual to defeat Arellano, 79-71, last Thursday.
The Blazers, on the other hand, avoided going down the cellar by beating hapless Lyceum, 87-73, also last Thursday.
In the juniors’ division, the San Sebastian Staglets seek their 12th win in 13 games when they face the St. Benilde Greenies at 12 p.m., while the JRU Light Bombers battle the Perpetual Altalettes at 2 p.m. in a game of bottom-half teams.