College of St. Benilde (CSB) has the psychological edge, University of Perpetual Help the confidence.
Both forces will come into play as the Blazers and the Altas collide for the last Final Four spot in the NCAA Season 97 senior basketball tournament on Wednesday at FilOil Flying V Centre.
But Benilde coach Charles Tiu wants to downplay the Blazers’ 83-73 victory over the Altas in their only elimination round clash.
“They’re on a roll and playing with a lot confidence. The elimination game means nothing now,’’ said Tiu after the Blazers missed barging into the semifinals outright following a 63-57 defeat at the hands of powerhouse San Beda at the start of the play-in stage last Sunday.
Benilde stalwarts Robi Nayve and Will Gozum picked the wrong day to misfire, going a combined 5-for-27 from the field which accelerated the Blazers’ downfall.
The Altas’ morale, meanwhile, has gone sky-high after they showed the Arellano University Chiefs the door in the other play-in tussle.
Defending champion Letran is safely perched at the top, awaiting the survivor between the Altas and the Blazers whom the Knights will have twice-to-beat advantage over in the semifinals.
The other Final Four pairing pits second-ranked Mapua against the No. 3 Red Lions, who are forced to travel an arduous route of winning over the Cardinals twice to seal a championship appearance.
Kim Aurin, who applied for the PBA Draft, has been praiseworthy lately, bailing out the Altas the past two games for a deep playoff run.
“I give credit to Kim. We witnessed how he took over when we needed somebody to step up,’’ said Altas coach Myk Saguiguit.
Mark Omega has likewise patrolled the paint with efficiency for the Altas, who got solid contributions from Jielo Razon and Lean Martel in their do-or-die tiff with the Chiefs.
“Lots of individual talent there. It’s going to be a challenge defending them in this game,’’ said Tiu.
Backing up Nayve and Gozum on CSB’s bid to enter the Final Four since 2002 is Miggy Corteza, whose career-high 24 points brought the Altas down to their knees in the eliminations.
The Altas are angling for a return trip to the Final Four after a missed opportunity in 2019. INQ
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