MANILA, Philippines - University of Perpetual Help, a team enjoying good run this early, guns for the solo lead on Monday when it takes on a dangerous Jose Rizal University side in the 88th NCAA basketball tournament at The Arena in San Juan.
Locked at the helm with defending champion San Beda at 4-1, the Altas shoot for a crucial win over the Heavy Bombers at 6 p.m. with coach Aric del Rosario determined to give the school owned by Antonio Tamayo a new high.
The arrival of the vintage warrior has been a blessing for Perpetual and Tamayo is hoping to sustain their magical run.
San Sebastian (3-1), meanwhile, goes for win No. 4 when it collides with Lyceum (2-4) at 4 p.m.
Perpetual's magical run surprised everybody, even Del Rosario himself.
''Hindi ko ine-expect itong hot start namin, kasi nakita ko na yung ibang teams na maglaro sa Filoil at Fr. Martin Cup, anlalakas ng mga kalaban,'' said Del Rosario, who orchestrated University of Santo Tomas' four straight championships in the UAAP in the mid-90s.
A Perpetual win will enable the Altas to surpass their win-record last year. They ended up with a woeful 5-13 mark.
Del Rosario knows how dangerous their rivals could be, given that JRU is just a game behind with a 3-1 mark, but his stalwarts, he said, are up to the challenge.
''Lahat naman ng teams malalakas eh. Nasa timpla lang yang ng players kung mananalo o hindi,'' said Del Rosario. ''Itong magandang umpisa namin, sana ma-inspire pa lalo sila at huwag na itong pakawalan.''
Leading their campaign would be Earl Thompson, who had a near triple-double feat in their 84-64 win over College of St. Benilde last Thursday with 16 points, 11 rebounds, nine assists and five steals.
Jet Vidal, who funneled 12 of his 16 points in the fourth quarter of their last game, will still remain a vital cog for the Altas.
JRU, meanwhile, is determined to rebound from its 101-78 defeat to SSC last week.