THEIR Final Four chances gone, three teams set their sights on a different trophy, while one tries to keep alive its fading hopes in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament on Thursday at The Arena in San Juan.
Eliminated squads College of St. Benilde, Mapua, and Lyceum, and on-the-brink Arellano vie for the next best thing — a spot in the Top 6 and berths to the Philippine Collegiate Champions League next month.
Lyceum takes on Mapua at 6 p.m. after College of St. Benilde faces Arellano two hours earlier.
The Pirates, who have earned the reputation as giant-killers who have curiously struggled against middle-of-the-pack squads, hope to make a return to the Champions League this time as an NCAA representative.
“Before the NCAA, the PCCL was our main league, so we want to follow up the recognition,” said coach Bonnie tan of Lyceum, which had earlier booked PCCL berths as champions of the Inter-Scholastic Athletic Association before the school moved to the NCAA.
“We’re on the right track.”
“Mas less pressure sa atin na walang Final Four na iniisip, so sana lumabas pa yung best nila,” added Tan, whose team clipped Jose Rizal University, 73-72, in a win thanks to Dexter Zamora’s buzzer-beating floater.
The seventh-running Pirates (6-10) face a cellar-dwelling Cardinals side that is still oozing confidence following a shock 81-76 victory over defending champion San Beda for only their second win in 16 games.
In the other matchup, Arellano hopes to keep whatever semifinal chances it has left against Benilde, this year’s heartbreak kids, whose season could’ve gone either way if not for close defeats. The Blazers are in ninth place with a 5-10 win-loss card.
The Chiefs, in sixth place at 6-9, is still mathematically alive in the playoff race. But apart from needing to win their last three games, the Legarda-based dribblers also need San Sebastian and Emilio Aguinaldo lose their last assignments.