Four struggling teams, led by perennial Final Four contender Jose Rizal U, take center stage on Thursday, all eager to turn their fortunes around in the 92nd NCAA seniors basketball tourney at The Arena in San Juan City.
Considered by many as the dark horse with a veteran-laden crew, the Heavy Bombers have yet to live up to high expectations, losing three of their first four matches, including a 66-69 stunner dealt by the Lyceum Pirates last Friday.
JRU has the chance to earn a needed tonic against unpredictable Emilio Aguinaldo College at 2 p.m. before Lyceum takes on winless St. Benilde at 4 o’clock.
The bigger share of the spotlight, however, should fall on the Heavy Bombers, who hoping to see their top guns, Tey Teodoro, Paolo Pontejos, Jordan dela Paz and the Cameroonian duo of Abdel Poutouochi and Abdul Razak Abdul Wahab, play with some sense of consistency.
“We’re not playing with heart,” lamented Jose Rizal U coach Vergel Meneses following their loss to Lyceum.
The Generals have dropped their last three matches and are also determined to bounce back behind a potent unit led by African import Hamadou Laminou, Sydney Onwubere, Francis Munsayac, Remy Morada and Igee King.
How EAC will close out the match on a strong note gnaws at Generals’ first-year mentor Ariel Sison.
”We have games that we had a chance to win but we blew our opportunities,” said Sison, still ruing a close 67-70 decision they dropped to an Allwell Oraeme-less Mapua side last week.
The Pirates, meanwhile, are hoping to zero in on the upper-half of the 10-team field against the Blazers who are eager to crash into the winners’ column.
Import Mike Nzeusseu, who came through with career-highs of 24 points and 21 rebounds in their win over JRU, is expected to lead the Lyceum’s charge anew along with rookie Adrian Alban who stole the thunder by scoring 19 markers in their latest win.
“We’re 1-and-3 and we still have 14 more games to go. It’s back to the drawing board for us,” said Lyceum coach Topex Robinson, refusing to give his wards any chance to fully celebrate yet. – By Jerome Lagunzad
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