THERE'S really nothing quite like the euphoria of taking your first NCAA win of the season.
And for Kent Salado, he wasn't shy in saying that he truly missed this feeling after missing almost two years of recovery from an ACL injury on his right knee.
"Sa akin, sobrang sarap eh," he said after Arellano's 86-77 conquest of Emilio Aguinaldo College on Friday for its breakthrough victory in the NCAA Season 95 seniors basketball tournament.
It was vindication for Salado after the Chiefs fizzled out in their first three outings and started the year 0-3.
"Gigil kami. Talo kami sa first three games namin at kinakapos kami sa huli, doon lang kami natatalo sa fourth quarter. Kaya laging sabi ni coach sa amin, nagte-training kami na maganda naman ang laban namin at lumalaban naman kami, kaso nga lang parang bumibitaw kami sa dulo," said the 24-year-old.
This time was different.
With Salado leading the way, Arellano made sure to never let go of the game after starting off with a 29-15 opener and fended off numerous rallies from EAC.
"Buti nga kanina tuloy-tuloy lang kami," said the Cagayan de Oro-born playmaker, who tallied 24 points, 11 assists, two rebounds, and one steal in the triumph.
It was also a perfect way for Salado to reintroduce himself to those who brushed him off the side after being sidelined by the freak knee injury.
"Sobrang hirap para sa akin kasi nung nawala ako, importanteng mga laban yun. Kaya nag-sipag lang ako at ginawa kong motivation yun na makabalik ako sa last year ko," he said, as he now assumes the role of a leader for this young Chiefs crew.
"Ako na yung pinakamatanda dito eh. Puro rookie ang kasama namin kaya sinasabi ko sa kanila na maglaro lang ng maayos. Sa akin lang kasi, depensa lang tayo nang maayos kasi alam naman natin kung saan tayo natatalo eh, sa depensa. Kasi yung score, darating din naman eh. Pag nasa loob ka, alam mo yung role mo dyan."
With this first victory under Arellano's belt, Salado hopes that his side can build on this as his team aims to make the campus proud especially in this year where the Chiefs serve as the season's hosts.
"Sobrang pressure nga eh kasi host kami ngayon, tapos last year ko pa at kakabalik ko lang," he said. "Pero pagdating sa game, laro lang ako at hindi ko na iniisip yun, para man lang makabawi naman ako sa teammates ko at sa school namin."