Midway through the season, the Arellano University were down. Making things worse, Kent Salado had been diagnosed with a partial tear on his right MCL a week ago.
But the Chiefs were still not out, hammering the Mapua University Cardinals, 81-64, to at least force a playoff, Tuesday afternoon at the Filoil Flying V Centre.
“Medyo blessing in disguise yung na postpone na game, nilagay sa last game. So malaking bagay yun. I think this is the first time na nag-four games in a row na nanalo,” said Chiefs head coach Jerry Codinera as this game was supposed to take place last September 12.
With the win, Arellano assured themselves of a playoff spot with a 9-9 record. Letran need to beat Saint Benilde on Tuesday afternoon, while San Sebastian have to avoid a Perpetual upset on Thursday to tie the Chiefs.
Levi dela Cruz powered the Chiefs offense with 20 points, firing off four triples.
“Masayang masaya ako dahil nanalo kami. Ginawa ko lang lahat ng ginawa ko para sa team,” said Dela Cruz, “Extra effort lang sa training, nakikinig lang ako sa advice nila kuya Kent at kuya Jio [Jalalon] sa akin. Talagang ready lang ako.”
“I think he is our third best player. Napakalaki ng future niya and his shot selection is still improving. He is like a mini version of Jalalon,” added Codinera.
The game was practically over by the second frame, as Arellano led by as much as 12 points during the second frame. And the lead would go to as high as 21 points in the final frame.
Super senior Lervin Flores anchored the Arellano defense with seven rebounds and two blocks, to go along with 14 points. Moreover, he gave a highlight for the game, throwing down a thunderous jam in the opening frame.
The Chiefs shot at an excellent 45 percent clip for the game, compared to just 37 percent for the Cardinals.
Mapua revelation Christian Bunag ended his eye-opening campaign with 22 points and 16 rebounds.
Andrew Estrella and Leo Gabo played their final NCAA game.
AU 81 – Dela Cruz 20, Flores 14, Nicholls 11, Alcoriza 8, Cañete 6, Enriquez 6, Viloria 5, Meca 4, Taywan 4, Abanes 3, Concepcion 0, Ongolo Ongolo 0, Padilla 0, Filart 0.
MU 64 – Buñag 22, Pelayo 9, Victoria 8, Gabo 7, Estrella 6, Orquina 5, Raflores 4, Jimenez 3, Aguirre 0.
Quarterscores: 17-13, 39-28, 58-48, 81-64.