FOR most of the season, Arellano has relied on star guard Kent Salado to try and salvage Year One of the school's post-Jiovani Jalalon era.
Now the rest of the Chiefs are picking up where Salado had left off.
With Salado’s herculean season coming to a halt after 16 games after he was diagnosed with a slight tear on his right MCL, his teammates have stepped up to keep the Chiefs in the hunt for an NCAA Final Four berth with an 85-79 victory over San Sebastian on Tuesday.
Salado averaged a league-best 19.1 points, five assists (good for second in the league) and 1.3 steals (fifth) prior to the injury - huge numbers that his teammates have surprisingly filled as the Chiefs went on a late tear to stay in the Final Four picture.
The backcourt of Rence Alcoriza and Levi dela Cruz stepped up in Salado's absence while Lervin Flores finally flourished into the leader he was expected to become at the start of the season.
“Mas lalo kaming ginanahan kasi parang kailangan namin mag-step up lahat ng players, kasi main man namin si Salado na nawala, sobrang laking bagay nun,” said Alcoriza, who finished the game with 16 points and seven rebounds.
Salado had always grumbled about lack of support during the season, but Arellano coach Jerry Codinera is pleased to see his players gain confidence in the absence of his top player.
“Nag-taper off na kung ano mang doubts yun or apprehensions nila sa game,” said Codinera. “Whatever happens in this season, we’ll offer everything to Kent.”
Dela Cruz posted 11 points, four rebounds and four assists in his first game as Arellano starter.
“Hinanda ko lang po ang sarili ko physically and mentally sa training namin. Nag-uumpisa talaga sa training yan kasi nga talagang doon naman mag-uumpisa lahat. Kaya po siguro nadala ko po dito,” said dela Cruz.
“Di naman po talaga ine-expect, pero at least alam ko naman sa sarili ko na ready lang ako anytime na mawala po si Kent.”
For dela Cruz, it’s the least he can do for his senior who has basically done it all for them for much of the season.
“Malungkot po talaga pag wala si Salado. Parang nanghihina po kami lahat. Then ano po, talagang nag-step up na lang din po kami, yung mga pagkukulang namin, yung ginagawa ni Kent pinunan na lang po namin hangga't sa abot ng makakaya namin.