Perpetual Help appears to have a relatively easier stretch to close out its first-round campaign in the 92nd NCAA seniors basketball tourney, with three of its next four rivals currently sitting at the lower-half of the 10-team field.
Altas coach Jimwell Gican, however, isn’t one to look that far ahead, stressing the need for his wards to keep their focus on the task at hand.
Fresh from a morale-boosting 61-55 victory over defending champion Letran last week, Perpetual Help aims to pull even closer within the pacesetters as the Altas take on the winless St. Benilde Blazers on Tuesday at The Arena in San Juan City.
Currently sharing the fourth spot with fellow title contender Arellano U with identical 3-2 marks, the Altas are favored in their 4 p.m. showdown with the free-falling Blazers, who have yet to get over the hump after six matches.
Taking their opponents lightly is far from Gican’s mind.
“Hindi ko ina-underestimate ang mga ‘yun kahit nasa lower rank sila,” he stressed. “Kasi kahit nu’ng pre-season ang mindset namin
‘Don’t underestimate our opponent.’ Kasi kung ano ‘yung sistema namin, ‘yun pa rin ang gagawin namin, malakas man o mahina ang kalaban.”
And that’s precisely what they did against the erstwhile streaking Knights the last time around.
The Altas rode on the game-long dominance of prized Nigerian import Bright Akhuetie and found the needed support from the likes of wingman Jeffrey Coronel and guard Keith Pido to stop the Knights’ four-game winning streak and earn themselves a perfect tonic to an 18-point beating dealt by undefeated San Beda last July 19.
“It’s a good sign for us may chance kami (makapasok) sa Final Four,” said Gican of the Altas’ immediate goal that they failed to realize last year despite the presence of former NCAA MVP and current Barangay Ginebra starter Earl Scottie Thompson.
“‘Yun ang ini-aim namin kasi last year, hindi kami nakapasok. Para sa amin, maganda ang nangyari kasi magandang panalo ito,” he added.
Perpetual Help will also take on Lyceum (2-3) on Friday and Emilio Aguinaldo College (1-4) on Aug.2 before wrapping up its first-round play against dangerous Mapua (5-1) on Aug. 4.
The Blazers also have their own spate of woes to deal with, chiefly the condition of import Clement Leutcheu who suffered an injury early in their 58-75 loss to the Pirates last Thursday. – By Jerome Lagunzad
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