RIDING high on scintillating forms, Perpetual Help and St. Benilde clash today in what is expected to be an explosive duel in the 89th NCAA basketball tournament at Filoil Flying V Arena in San Juan.
The Altas, running third with a 6-2 card, and the Blazers (3-5), take the floor at 6 p.m. with Perpetual Help looking to follow up its conquest of the erstwhile unbeaten Letran.
The Blazers are seeking a fourth straight win in the tournament, although they could have easily gone unbeaten after losing by a total of seven points in their first five setbacks.
“It’s going to be tough because Perpetual is also playing at a high level,” said St. Benilde coach Gabby Velasco. “But we’ve learned so many lessons early in the season and this will help us in big games like this.”
San Sebastian and Lyceum collide in the first game at 4 p.m. in a battle of teams out to snap losing skids. The Stags hope to end a two-game slide while the Pirates are seeking a first win in their last six games.
Without leading scorer and playmaker Jamil Ortuoste, San Sebastian struggled to get going, falling into an early deficit on its way to absorbing a 64-83 defeat to San Beda last Monday.
The Pirates, who have not won since July 6 when they dumped the Mapua Cardinals, 74-59, are still reeling from a 49-61 loss to the Jose Rizal U Bombers last Thursday.
The spotlight will be on the Altas-Blazers clash as both teams go into the game on the back of solid performances.
The Altas became the first team to beat the Knights this season with a wire-to-wire 80-66 win last Thursday.
The Blazers were just as impressive against the Cardinals, whom they drubbed, 84-64, last Saturday.
Against the Knights, rookie Juneric Baloria and Nosa Omorogbe combined for 53 points for the Altas.
Baloria’s matchup with St. Benilde’s swingman Paolo Taha serves as a key sidelight in the duel. Like Baloria, Taha is also stamping his class in the league, delivering an all-around effort of 24 points, 10 boards, 4 assists and 3 steals against the Cardinals.