Powerhouse Perpetual Help collides with defending champion Letran on Tuesday, with both teams aiming to improve on their respective positions in the 92nd NCAA seniors basketball tournament at The Arena in San Juan City.
The Altas, tied at second spot with Arellano U with identical 10-3 marks, try to keep themselves inside the Top 2 while the Knights, running at sixth with an even 7-7 record, intend to extend their winning streak to three while staying within striking distance for the fourth and final semifinals spot.
That should make their 4 p.m. showdown doubly crucial, as opposing mentors keep their focus on the task at hand.
“Every game is a championship game for us,” said Perpetual Help coach Jimwell Gican, who is eager to lead the Altas back to the Final Four round after missing the trip last year.
“Same pa rin naman ang mindset namin at wala sa sistema namin ang magre-relax. Gusto naming makabalik sa Final Four. Kahit nasa taas na kami, one game at a time lang,” shared the Perpetual coach.
“Kailangan tapusin muna namin ‘yung second round ng maganda. Saka na namin pag-uusapan ‘yung susunod.”
On the other hand, Letran coach Jeff Napa also has the same approach for the Knights, who will have little room for any error in their title-retention bid.
“It’s still a long way to go,” said Napa, still keeping an optimistic approach ahead of a virtual make-or-break stretch.
“Hindi na namin para intindihin ‘yung mga nasa itaas namin. Kailangan intindihin muna namin ‘yung mga sarili namin. It’s better to perform muna kami bago problemahin kung swan ang aabutin namin.”
The Altas defeated the Knights, 61-55 in their first-round battle last July 22, sparking what turned out to be a dominant run where they won eight of their next nine games.
That should give the Knights added reason to play their A-game.
“Basta collective effort ulit ang kailangan namin. ‘Yung performance naman ng mga bata ang nagdi-dictate ng laro. Kung mata-translate namin ‘yung effort (in their 73-61 win over San Sebastian last week) at mas dodoblehin pa nila, mas maganda ‘yung magiging tsansa namin against Perpetual,” said Napa.
Gab Dagangon, the Altas’ top local who’s expected to go up against Knights star Rey Nambatac, is confident about their chances to taking another step towards a Top 2 berth that offers a twice-to-beat edge in the semis.
“Basta tulung-tulong at trabaho lang, walang imposible,” he said. – Jerome Lagunzad
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