Christian Dela Paz let loose a season-high offensive output, making sure that Arellano University would emerge unscathed on Saturday.
Dela Paz erupted for 29 points as the Chiefs escaped the jaws of defeat, pulling through when it mattered most and fending off San Sebastian in five sets, 25-23, 16-25, 25-27, 25-19, 16-14, at the FilOil Flying V Centre.
Still, Arellano head coach Sherwin Meneses refused to hide his dismay with the way his wards allowed the Golden Stags to push them to the brink. But then, he chose to look at the brighter side.
“Hindi gan’un kaganda kasi siyempre mataas ‘yung ine-expect na panalo namin ngayon. Pero sabi ko nga sa kanila na andiyan so back to basic lang tayo, walang mangigigil kaya nakuha namin ‘yun fifth set,” said Meneses, as his side rose to 4-0 for a share of lead with Perpetual.
“‘Yun nga, sa isang banda naman, naging lesson sa amin ‘yung pressure game kasi nga five set, first five set namin sa season na ‘to. Naging aral sa amin kung paano maglaro sa pressure games, kahit nanalo kami ng five sets kahit dikit, lesson din sa amin at experience,” he added.
In the pressure-laden fifth set, Dela Paz was a steady force for Arellano. He pummeled eight huge points in the said stretch, a couple of which whittled away a slim 11-9 Golden Stags’ lead that brought things back to square one.
Both teams then traded blows, culminating to another stalemate at 13 before Dela Paz hammered one in to buoy Arellano at match point. Dom Ramirez refused to go down just yet, though, responding with a kill of her own to forge a deadlock.
Dela Paz then displayed nerves of steel once again after striking first in the two-to-win situation. His momentum-swinging attack slammed the door shut at the Golden Stags, setting up Demy Lapuz, who locked the door for good with an off the block hit in the ensuing sequence.
Complimenting the stellar offensive outing of Dela Paz, Jesrael Liberato provided stability with his net defense. He collected five of his team’s 12 blocks en route to 16 markers. Lapuz, who stood his ground in the rubber set, contributed 12 points.
Edmark Meneses ably distributed the wealth for Arellano, orchestrating their scoring thrust to the tune of 30 excellent sets.
On the other hand, San Sebastian could not capitalize on its breakthrough win last Tuesday, falling down to the seventh spot with a 1-3 card.
David Honra saw his 25-point outing go down the drain. James Lana put up 20 markers in a losing cause, while Ramirez scattered a 17-point, 14-reception, 12-dig triple-double performance that also went for naught.
Arellano seeks to sustain momentum when it collides with San Beda on Monday, January 27. Meanwhile, San Sebastian will take on St. Benilde on Tuesday, January 28, for a bounce-back win. Both matches will be played at the same venue.