ARELLANO University leaned on Nard Pinto’s clutch performance to trip University of Perpetual Help, 63-54, on Monday in the 88th NCAA men’s basketball tournament at The Arena in San Juan.
The rookie playmaker from Davao fired seven of his 15 points in the fourth quarter, where the Chiefs pulled away from the Altas in a game that until then had been too close to call.
The 21-year-old Pinto added 13 boards and six assists in a workmanlike effort that earned the nod of coach Koy Banal, who was fresh from a PBA Finals defeat with B-Meg, where he serves as assistant coach.
“Siya ang nagbukas ng pinto para sa aming panalo," Banal said, drawing laughter from those present at the press room. “At galing sa aming pagkatlo sa PBA Finals, nakakagaan ito ng loob.”
The Chiefs snapped a two-game skid and improved to 3-5 while the Altas lost for only the third time in nine outings and failed to sustain the momentum of their amazing come-from-behind win against Emilio Aguinaldo College.
Clinging to a two-point lead entering the fourth, the Chiefs clamped down on defense and rode Pinto on offense to outscore the Altas, 17-10, in the payoff period.
"We played very good defense especially down the stretch,” said Banal, whose wards atoned for their woeful showing in their blowout loss against San Sebastian last week. “It's about time that we focus on that area because we all know defense win games and ultimately championships."
Nigerian import Femi Babayemi paced the Altas with 13 points, all in the third quarter to go with 10 boards and three blocks.
ARELLANO 63 – Pinto 15, Caperal 11, Zulueta 8, Cadavis 8, Forrester 6, Acidre 5, Hernandez 4, Salcedo 4, Bangga 2, Espiras 0
PERPETUAL HELP 54 – Vidal 13, Babayemi 13, Thompson 8, Arboleda 8, Elopre 4, Omorogbe 4, Allen 4, Paulino 0, Alano 0, Jolangcob 0
Quarterscores: 10-16, 28-27, 46-44, 63-54