A crucial game between Jose Rizal University and Letran highlights Saturday’s NCAA action at the FilOil Flying V Arena in San Juan.
The Heavy Bombers and the Knights, who are tied with identical 9-6 win-loss records along with Perpetual Help for third to fifth spots, will clash at 6 p.m. after the opening encounter between Emilio Aguinaldo College and College of Saint Benilde.
JRU defeated Letran convincingly, 101-83, in their first round meeting.
Knights coach Louie Alas said his team will go into the game without an eye on the playoff picture. “We’ll prepare well for JRU. Di namin pinag-uusapan ang final four. Basta we’re taking it one game at a time,” said Alas.
A win will move the winner up to solo third, while a loss will relegate the losing team to fifth place.
JRU is coming off a 62-56 win over the Blazers with John Lopez and Michael Mabulac spearheading the attack. Rookie guard Ivan Camasura is expected to return to action to man the point alongside Romnick Mendoza in the absence of Bulacan native Alex Almario, who is out for the season due to a rheumatic heart ailment.
The Heavy Bombers are gunning for their sixth straight semifinal appearance this season dating back to 2007.
In the first game, EAC is fresh off a 94-73 victory over the Lyceum Pirates last Thursday, while Saint Benilde is coming off a close 62-56 defeat at the hands of JRU.
EAC still has a slim chance at the playoffs, and coach Gerry Esplana uses that to motivate his players.
“We’re still alive with a slim chance. Saint Benilde will be playing the spoiler’s role nalang. They’re playing for pride. Hopefully, maglaro ang team with the same intensity like today,” he said.
Noube Happi, who posted 20 points and 13 rebounds against Lyceum after several down games, is once again expected to lead the EAC attack.
“Medyo bumaba yung intensity ni Happi nung past three games namin, he had his blood chemistry test the other day. Kasi nag-co-complain sya na parang weak ang feeling nya. Malakas sya pero pag nasa court na, humihina. Must be because of his food intake, hopefully 100 percent na siya on Saturday,” said Esplana.
The Blazers are in ninth spot with a 4-11 record. Carlo Lastimosa has been a regular and consistent leader for the team alongside Paolo Taha but the Blazers have had problems closing out games.
In their first round meeting last August 3, EAC defeated Benilde, 76-61.
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