JOSE Rizal University coach Vergel Meneses hopes his defensive-oriented team has not reached its peak yet.
Already happy with the Heavy Bombers’ great start, Meneses hopes they keep on improving as a unit, especially against the Lyceum Pirates whom they play on Thursday in the 88th NCAA men’s basketball tournament at The Arena in San Juan.
The Bombers, currently tied with last year’s finalists San Beda and San Sebastian at the top on 4-1 (win-loss) cards, try to emerge as the solo leader when they come out of their 6 p.m. affair with the Pirates.
“I hope we will still peak at hindi bumaba ang level namin,” Meneses said after the Bombers scraped past University of Perpetual Help, 64-59, last Monday.
The Bombers have been relying heavily on Nate Matute’s scorching shooting in their first four games, which resulted in three wins for the Mandaluyong-based school.
But with the senior swingman getting shackled in their game versus the Altas, the Bombers counted on their trademark defense to carry them to victory.
Matute still led the team in scoring, along with Alex Almario, with 12 points, but less than half of his team-high 25.5-point average going into the game.
The Bombers should be wary of the 2-5 Pirates, who were undermanned against powerhouse San Sebastian Stags but showed steely nerves in the stretch run before going down, 79-87, last Monday.
But a bigger concern for Meneses though is complacency.
“Ang kinakatakot ko mga players ko,” he said. “Hindi ko alam kung kailan (sa laro sila) magta-trabaho eh.”
In the first game, Perpetual and Mapua try to recover from their respective losses when they tangle at 4 o’clock.
The Altas, carrying a 4-2 record, will again lean on swingmen Jet Vidal and Earl Thompson, who fired 20 and 12 points respectively, in that loss against the Bombers.
Thompson, though, has been an ideal barometer for the Las Piñas-based dribblers as the sophomore swingman from Digos City led the team to wins when he scores 14 points or more.
Mike Parala and rookie Gab Banal, on the other hand, are expected to banner the Cardinals, who sport a 2-3 slate.
In the juniors’ division, the Perpetual Altalettes take on the Mapua Red Robins at 12 p.m., while the JRU Light Bombers face the Lyceum Junior Pirates two hours later.