UNIVERSITY of Perpetual Help sustained its surprising start in the 88th NCAA men’s basketball tournament, clobbering College of St. Benilde, 84-64, behind Earl Thompson’s fine, all-around performance on Thursday night at The Arena in San Juan.
The 19-year-old swingman from Digos City fell just an assist shy of a triple-double, recording 16 points, 11 rebounds, nine assists and five steals to lead the Altas to their fourth win in five games, tying San Beda at the top.
The resurgent Altas are now a victory shy from matching their win total last season, when they finished with a 5-13 record.
“Di ko talaga in-expect ito,” Altas coach Aric del Rosario said. “Nilampaso kami sa Filoil (Cup preseason tournament) eh.”
After finishing the preseason tournament with a 2-6 slate, the Altas had modest expectations entering the new season. But once they started winning, Del Rosario reminded his boys to keep it up.
“Sinabi ko lang sa kanila na 'wag na nilang pakawalan itong pagkakataong ito.”
Jet Vidal shot a woeful 6-of-22 from the field but also finished with 16 points, 12 of them in the fourth where the Altas maintained their commanding lead that was established in the third.
Three other players scored in double figures for the Altas, with Nicholas Omorogbe, Anthony Paulino and Chris Elopre tallying 14, 11, and 10 points, respectively.
Trailing 29-32 at halftime, the Altas suddenly turned the game around in the third as the Las Piñas-based dribblers limited the Blazers to just seven points while scoring 28 of their own to go up, 57-39.
Jonathan Grey was the lone bright spot for the Blazers as the 6-foot-2 swingman tallied 13 points on 6-of-8 shooting in 20 minutes off the bench.
The prolific Carlo Lastimosa was held to five points for St. Benilde, which dropped to 2-4.
PERPETUAL (84) -- Vidal 16, Thompson 16, Omorogbe 14, Paulino 11, Elopre 10, Babayemi 7, Arboleda 6, Allen 2, Asuncion 2, Jolangcob 0, Alano 0, Cenita 0
ST. BENILDE (64) -- Grey 13, Romero 10, Tolentino 10, Taha 7, Bartolo 6, Lastimosa 5, Sinco 4, Altamirano 3, Ongteco 2, Garcia 2, Carlos 2, Deles 0, Maconocido 0
Quarterscores: 17-18, 29-32, 57-39, 84-64