Playing without a suspended Calvin Abueva on opening day, the Stags took a slim lead early on, but the JRU Heavy Bombers kept things close, but could not overtake them. Late in the game, John Lopez got his team the closest they ever got all day long, scoring to pull within a point, 64-63 with 1:26 left on the clock. Rookie head coach Topex Robinson, making his NCAA coaching debut, then drew up a nifty play to get Ian Sangalang in the post, and the 6'6" center responded, scoring on a layup to boost the lead up to three. Lopez was blocked trying to answer on the other end, and a defensive mix-up gave Ronald Pascual an open look at a three, which he nailed, sealing the 73-67 Stags win. (Recap here)
What's at Stake:
- This is ostensibly do or die for the 3-8 JRU Heavy Bombers. While it's still conceivable that the other contenders for the Final Four spot ahead of them (you know, four other teams) all suffer simultaneous collapses, it basically takes things out of JRU's hands, and that's not a position you want to be in.
- At 11-0, the San Sebastian Stags are guaranteed at least a playoff for the fourth seed should they lose all of their remaining games. A nice prize in itself, but the Stags are no doubt targeting at least a twice-to-beat berth. Of course, there's also the unsaid possibility of a sweep no doubt percolating in the heads of last season's runners-up, who know what a great advantage such an incentive is.
JRU Player to Watch : The Letran Knights held JRU's leading scorer John Lopez to a season-low two points, all on free throws to boot, and four rebounds, a far cry from when he averaged a double-double through the first five games of the season. Lopez was the driving force keeping the season opener close. If he's mired in a slump, then the Bombers are going to find it near-impossible to stay in contention.
SSCR Player to Watch : Calvin Abueva was absent for this game, serving a suspension for accumulating flagrant fouls in last season's finals, so no doubt he'll be looking to strut his stuff in front of the Heavy Bombers. What ought to scare opponents is just how high his field goal percentage is. In the last three games, it's never dipped below .500, as "The Beast" is literally able to score at will. No doubt, JRU will be hard-pressed to stop this frontrunner in the MVP race.
Prediction: SSCR Stags