Here's a nice piece of numerical symmetry: the Heavy Bombers beat the Cardinals all three times they played last season, twice in the eliminations, and again in the stepladder format, with JRU as the third-ranked team and MIT as the fourth-ranked team. Amazingly, in all three games, JRU held Mapua to just 54 points. That's right, 54 points (61-54, 68-54 and 60-54) in each three games. Cool huh? The Cardinals didn't seem to think so, as they took it right to JRU in the Fil-Oil tournament. Though JRU was resolute, getting to two overtime periods, gunner Nate Matute ultimately ran out of ammo and Mapua was able to escape with the 89-85 victory.
Stat to Watch : In their two losses, JRU only got four and three more turnovers than their opponents, San Sebastian and Arellano respectively. Versus EAC though, EAC was +18 in turnovers, and so for the Heavy Bombers to be successful, taking care of their possessions will be just as important as making sure the opponent screws up theirs.
Player to Watch : Of the 4 guards that hit the floor against EAC, rookie John Villarias was the most productive, finishing with 12 points, 4 rebounds and 4 steals (we'll ignore his 0/5 shooting performance from downtown, that's half of the squad's triple attempts by the way). With Nate Matute likely to still be out, Villarias will get playing time, and anything he can give them (even if it's not an outside shot) against the likes of Jonathan Banal, Josan Nimes and Andretti Stevens will go a long way to getting JRU their second win.
Stat to Watch : All in all, Mapua has been outscored 61 to 39 in the fourth quarter, an average of 7.33 points difference. They manage to score about 13 fourth quarter points while giving up 20.33 to their opponents. Those are some truly horrible numbers, and coming up against JRU, a squad that can put points on the board in a hurry, the Cards have to feel that no lead, no matter how large going into the fourth quarter, is going to be safe. Assuming, of course, that they get into the fourth quarter with a lead.
Player to Watch : Allan Mangahas continues to astound in his last playing year, averaging 18 points on 40% shooting, 5.7 rebounds, 5.7 assists, and 2.3 steals to just 2 turnovers a game. But watching Mapua's three games, a pattern emerges, namely Mangahas goes berserk and erects a huge lead for Mapua, he sits down to rest early in the fourth, opponent comes back at them, Mangahas is reinserted too late, a minute or so later, Mangahas is back on the bench despite the opponent's newly obtained lead still being manageable. Will we be seeing this for a fourth time?
Prediction: JRU Heavy Bombers