UNIVERSITY of Perpetual Help hopes to end its first round campaign in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament on a bright note as it squares off against a surging College of St. Benilde team on Monday at The Arena in San Juan.
The third-running Altas have won six of their eight games, emerging as legitimate title contenders behind the impressive plays of an audacious bunch led by Rookie of the Year frontrunner Juneric Baloria.
And a victory by the Las Piñas-based dribblers in their 6 p.m. encounter with the Blazers will move them only half-a-game behind league leaders and archrivals Letran and San Beda, which both tote 7-1 win-loss cards.
“Satisfied ako (sa simula namin), pero meron pang isa sa first round, yung Benilde,” Altas coach Aric del Rosario said. “Hindi natin pwede biruin yun. Kailangan paghandaan rin.”
Riding the momentum of an 80-66 victory over the erstwhile undefeated Knights, the Altas are considered favorites against the Blazers, who, nevertheless, remain a tough nut to crack.
In their first season under veteran mentor Gabby Velasco, the Blazers are currently one of the league’s hottest teams, having won three successive games after starting the season with a string of heartbreaking results.
Fresh from their highest-scoring game of the season, an 84-64 rout of hapless Mapua last Saturday, the weary Blazers will be playing in their third game in 11 days.
“It’s really a tough game for us,” Velasco said. “Perpetual is also in high spirits.”
Meanwhile, San Sebastian plays its second game without star guard Jamil Ortuoste as it takes on a fellow undermanned squad in Lyceum earlier at 4 p.m.
With Ortuoste sidelined with a sprained left ankle, the Golden Stags were in the wrong end of an 83-64 blowout against San Beda last Monday in a match that dropped their record to an even 4-4 slate, still good for fifth place.
The Pirates, still without suspended offensive sparkplug Dexter Zamora, hope to snap a five-game skid. They are currently tied with Arellano in eighth spot.