LETRAN tries to pass its first real acid test in University of Perpetual Help when the two teams clash on their return to action on Thursday in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament at The Arena in San Juan.
The Knights have been lording over the standings with seven straight wins to emerge as the remaining undefeated team in the country’s oldest collegiate league, which is coming off a two-week break following the country’s hosting of the 27th Fiba-Asia Championship.
Although they have been tested in several down-the-wire finishes by teams currently in the middle of the pack, the Knights will finally stake their spotless record against a legitimate contender in the Altas in the 4 p.m. match.
The Altas, now in their second season under multi-titled coach Aric del Rosario, are running third in the 10-team field with a 5-2 win-loss slate.
“Perpetual has been playing solid,” Knights coach Caloy Garcia acknowledged. “They’re not that big, but then they’re quick and very precise sila sa offense nila, even on their defense.”
The Altas, though, are trying to recover from a 65-72 defeat at the hands of defending champion San Beda last July 27.
For them to add to the Altas’ misery, Garcia said the Knights have to put the clamps on Nigerian forward Nicholas Omorogbe, who registered 21 points, seven rebounds, three assists, three steals, and one block in a losing effort against the Lions.
“They always rely on their import. We just have to find ways to stop him,” said Garcia, who again expects MVP candidate Raymond Almazan to anchor Letran’s defense.
The Knights also have to figure out how to shackle Juneric Baloria, Perpetual Help’s rookie standout who has ably filled the void left by former marksman Jet Vidal, emerging as one of the league’s top scorers.
Meanwhile, Jose Rizal University tries to take advantage of a depleted Lyceum side when they square off in the second game of the double-header at 6 p.m.
The fourth-running Heavy Bombers hope to improve with a fifth win in eight games against a Pirates squad that will be without suspended cagers Dexter Zamora, Mark Francisco, and Joseph Ambohot.
Zamora will be serving the second of a three-game suspension. Francisco and Ambohot were suspended for three games and one game, respectively, for their disqualifying fouls in the Pirates’ 83-76 loss to Emilio Aguinaldo College last July 29.