Still struggling to find its new identity following the loss of Cameroonian center Donald Tankoua due to a season-ending ACL injury, San Beda appears more vulnerable than ever for Jose Rizal U.
That explains why coach Vergel Meneses is urging the Heavy Bombers to pounce on the opportunity in their rematch with the Red Lions on Tuesday when the 92nd NCAA seniors basketball action resumes at The Arena in San Juan City.
Game time is set at 2 p.m., with JRU (8-6) out to reassert its dominance over San Beda (11-3) and stay hot on the heels of Mapua (8-5) for the fourth and final semifinals berth.
The Heavy Bombers shocked the Red Lions, 79-73 in their first-round meeting last August 9. But the 47-year-old Meneses warned his charges to keep their guards up, knowing their rivals have what it takes to turn the tables around.
“We beat them in the first round but for sure it’s gonna be a different story this time. They want to get back on us, sigurado ‘yan,” he stressed.
Meneses, however, feels the Heavy Bombers are slightly favored since the Red Lions, hoping to inch closer towards a Final Four berth, are groping for form in the absence of the 6-foot-7 Tankoua.
San Beda has lost two of its last three matches, including a 97-101 overtime setback to Mapua last Thursday.
“They’re on a roller-coaster ride and we have to capitalize on that. Hindi man natin ginusto ‘yung nangyari sa San Beda kaso dumating ‘yung opportunity. Andyan na so we don’t have to waste it,” said Meneses.
“Nagbigay ng chance sa other teams ‘yung nangyari. Kumbaga naging anybody’s ballgame na.”
Tipped to make life miserable for the Red Lions in the lane is Heavy Bombers Cameroon import Abdoul Poutuouchi, who’s been having a revival of sorts in their second-round resurgence.
“I had to change my bad habits from the first round and now its working,” he said. “The desire to win and go to the Final Four is still there. The race is open. Our team don’t wanna miss it. We are continuing to push until we get there.”
Aware they will have their hands full against JRU, San Beda coach Jamike Jarin couldn’t stress hard enough what needs to be done.
“We just need to double our efforts on defense and execute on offense,” he said in an SMS message to FOX Sports. – Jerome Lagunzad
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