A STRUGGLING University of Perpetual Help welcomes back a key player in time for its playoff game against San Sebastian to determine the No. 3 seed in the NCAA men’s Final Four.
Nicholas Omorogbe, sidelined with a right knee injury in the school’s last game, returns to action in the 4 p.m. encounter at The Arena on Tuesday when the Altas face the Golden Stags for the right to face second-running Letran in the semifinals.
A crucial scenario however, looms in the horizon depending on how the recent `larong labas’ allegation involving Ryusei Koga of San Beda will pan out.
If proven guilty, the league-leading Lions (15-3) will forfeit four of their games and drop them to fourth spot in a sudden Final Four matchup with archrival Knights.
The Altas and the Stags would then vie for the middle spots in the semifinals.
Asked how healthy Omorogbe is, Altas assistant coach Lester del Rosario didn’t take long to answer.
“One hundred one percent,” the son of head coach Aric del Rosario said on Monday.
The development is welcome news for the Altas, who have been on a four-game tailspin that forced them to finish the elimination round with an 11-7 win-loss card in a tie with the Stags.
The importance of snapping the losing streak ahead of the Final Four is not lost on Del Rosario.
“Mahirap naman maglaro sa Final Four na galing sa talo, kaya pipilitin naming manalo.”
The Stags, who have won three of their last four games to secure a fifth straight semifinal appearance, are taking advantage of the chance at reaching a higher spot.
“It’s another opportunity for us to get better,” said Stags coach Topex Robinson, who, despite hovering on a cloud of uncertainty, have included Omorogbe in his team’s preparations.
“We’re not trying to think na hindi siya maglalaro kasi we might be surprised.”
“I’m also scared if there’s a star na hindi maglalaro kasi I know that somebody’s gonna play a big game,” Robinson added. “Mas mahirap `yung wala siya sa preparation mo eh.”
The Stags swept their head-to-head matchup with the Altas in the eliminations, eking out a 78-77 overtime victory in the first round, before hacking out a 71-65 decision in the second.