TWO NCAA men’s basketball heavyweights try to maintain their lofty places in the standings as they take on separate foes on Saturday at The Arena in San Juan.
League-leading Letran and second-running San Beda, the protagonists in last year’s Finals, face Lyceum and Jose Rizal University, respectively, hoping to keep their winning streaks alive.
The Knights and Lions have won their matches in contrasting fashions, with the former defeating their opponents via close margins and the latter scoring blowout victories.
The Knights have won their first four games, the last a 61-60 squeaker over hapless College of St. Benilde last Saturday, while the Red Lions’ 78-53 victory over Mapua in a highly physical affair last Monday stretched the defending champions’ streak to three.
Letran coach Caloy Garcia believes his team, bannered by slotman Raymond Almazan and rookie Rey Nambatac, will have another down-the-wire finish in their 4 p.m. encounter with the dangerous Pirates, who are coming off a 71-66 loss to University of Perpetual Help last Saturday that evened their win-loss card at 2-2.
“Lyceum is an improved team compared to last year,” Garcia said of the Pirates, who finished last place in Season 88, but jumpstarted their current season by toppling San Beda, 67-54.
“The NCAA now is very competitive so anything can happen,” added Louie Alas’ successor, whose wards missed plenty of charities but were able to hold off the Blazers’ stand in their last game. “We just have to review what we have to do, kung ano mga mali namin and we’ll just improve on that.”
The Lions, who have won their last three games by an average of 17.7 points, are eyeing another romp, but will definitely be hard-pressed against a Heavy Bombers side that relies on its ever-reliable full-court defense and shooters.
“Tsa-tsamba lang kami sa kanila,” said Bombers coach Vergel Meneses, whose team dispatched Emilio Aguinaldo College, 85-79, on Monday. “They’re a strong team. Pukpok lang, laban lang kami and let’s see what will happen. Nothing to lose for us.”