In an early season classic, the University of Perpetual Help System DALTA (UPHSD) Altas escaped the hungry Mapua Institute of Technology (MIT) Cardinals, 82-79, to gain solo lead in the standings last Tuesday, July 7.
After a tied game with only 27 seconds remaining in the first quarter, the Altas were plagued by unnecessary fouls and unforced turnovers until the fourth quarter. Fortunately for the Aric del Rosario-mentored squad, the team came alive in the last two minutes of the final quarter to gain the lead at the 30.7 second mark after a nifty pass by MVP Scottie Thompson to a waiting Gab Dagangon. A Bright Akhuetie steal resulted to a fastbreak layup by Dagangon to seal the game.
Altas mentor called this game as a test of his lads’ character as it showed the heart and desire of his squad . “Dun mo makikita ang character ng player. All the way lalamangan kami, lalayo sila pero ang pinakaimportante yung last. Yung wag masyadong magmamadali sa opensa, pasensiya muna. Dun makakafocus sa opensa,” Del Rosario said. The patience of his players was put to the test as the team was assessed a total of 29 fouls in the game and gave up 20 turnovers.
The hero of the game, Gab Dagangon (16 points, 8/14 FG, three steals) was even playing hurt during the game due to an inadvertent elbow coming from their game against CSB last Friday. “Kahit may sakit ako na iniinda, kelangan pumasok kasi wala ng iba. Kelangan magpakita,” the Visayan hotshot told us after the game. Coach Del Rosario even jokingly quipped that, “Si Gabby minsan nakakatulog. Minsan binibigyan namin ng kape, buti na lang ngayon gising kasi nagkape kanina e.”
Moreover, star big man Bright Akhuetie (24 points, 8/12 FG, eight rebounds) was also under the weather after falling to a high fever that did not let him train and practice for the majority of the week. “Si Bright [Akhuetie] may sakit yan. After nung laro namin against Benilde, di na siya nag-ensayo pero kita naman naglaro pa rin. Kung iba yan di na maglalaro yan. Sabi niya sa akin, ‘coach don’t worry I will play,’” the veteran coach opened. But for Akhuetie, he cannot let any illness hamper his team’s momentum. “I just have to. Even if the coaches are telling me to rest, I have to bring the energy to the team,” the 18 year old exclaimed. “Like I said before, I don’t care if I don’t score. The only thing that matters is I have to be on the floor and push my teammates. It’s not like everyday I’m gonna score 44 points, I just need to do the things to help my team win.”
For team captain, King Altas, Earl Scottie Thompson (nine points, 12 rebounds, 10 assists), the pains of going through practice and going into the battlefield every day gave him the reason to trust his teammates even in the most crucial parts of the game. “Alam ko kung gaano magpakahirap sa practice ang mga teammates ko. Lahat sa kanila may tiwala ako, di ako namimili sa mga papasahan ko. Kung sino bakante sa kanila, lagi ko sinasabi na makakashoot sila,” the NCAA Season 90 MVP closed.
Truly after a barnburner of a game against the Cardinals, this proves that the Perpetual Altas have one goal in mind: to win it all. But in the first step in taking this goal, they have to build the camaraderie and patience needed for the grind. This game proves that they have taken that initial step.