Blazers, minus Lastimosa, face Bombers
MANILA—St. Benilde begins life without ace guard Carlo Lastimosa when it tangles with surging Jose Rizal U Monday in the 87th NCAA basketball tournament at the FilOil Flying V Arena in San Juan.
In a surprise move that also threw the Blazers’ plans in disarray, Lastimosa, the 2010 Rookie of the Year, quit the team after his parents and the school disagreed on academic policies on student-athletes.
While Lastimosa’s resignation from the Blazers had leaked out Thursday night, it was only confirmed last Saturday when Henry Atayde, St. Benilde’s representative to the NCAA Management Committee, announced that the guard had quit the team.
Lastimosa’s sudden departure is another big blow to the Blazers, a Final Four contender who already lost forward Mark Romero early this month for personal reasons.
Lyceum and Emilio Aguinaldo College also hope to stay in the hunt for a semifinal berth when they clash at 11:45 a.m.
The Pirates dropped out of the top four after a three-game skid although a win against the Generals could lift them to at least a tie for fifth.
St. Benilde will miss Lastimosa’s scoring as the Cagayan de Oro-born guard averaged just under 15 points a game in 11 outings this season.
“We have to make do with what we have and hopefully someone steps up,” said St. Benilde coach Richard del Rosario, who will now rely on Jonathan Grey and Juan Taha for offensive firepower.
The Blazers are running fifth with a 5-8 card and a victory over the Bombers in the 4 p.m. encounter would put them level with fourth-ranked Mapua.
Despite their woeful 5-9 card, the Bombers cannot be counted out, considering that they pulled off the biggest upset of the season – a 76-65 trouncing of San Beda last Wednesday.
That win breathed life into the Bombers’ flickering Final Four bid and coach Vergel Meneses said his team has gotten its confidence back after a disappointing start.
“We cannot look ahead, we have to take it one game at a time,” said Meneses in assessing the Bombers’ Final Four chances.
In the past two games though, the Bombers have looked like the team that reached the Final Four in the last four seasons with Jeckster Apinan, John Lopez, Nate Matute and Bryon Villarias all dishing out solid efforts to lead JRU to back-to-back wins.
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