THE role players sparkled when the stars failed to shine as the Perpetual Help Altas tripped Jose Rizal University, 73-68, on Thursday night at The Arena in San Juan and ended eight years of frustration in the 88th NCAA men’s basketball tournament.
With Earl Thompson and Jet Vidal failing to produce their usual numbers, Justine Alano and Chris Elopre stepped up along with Nosa Omorogbe as the Altas outplayed the Bombers in a crucial playoff and booked the remaining Final Four ticket.
Alano and Omorogbe registered 14 points apiece, while Elopre added 12 markers for the Altas, who will make their first postseason appearance since 2004 when they also made Finals.
Aric del Rosario, the multi-titled mentor who has suddenly pumped life into the Altas’ program, had nothing but kind words for his wards.
“Proud ako sa mga player ko,” said the 72-year-old Del Rosario, who won four straight titles with University of Santo Tomas in the mid-1990s. “Pinaglaban talaga nila ang gusto nila.”
Thompson, who is set to be named the league’s MVP and a member of the Mythical Five, had five points on 1-of-9 shooting in 23 minutes, while Vidal had six markers on a 2-of-16 clip.
Perpetual faces top seed and twice-to-beat San Beda in the semifinals on Saturday.
“Sinabi ko sa mga teammates ko ayaw ko pa ito maging last game ko sa NCAA kaya tulungan niyo ako makapasok sa Final Four. Buti maganda naging resulta,” said Vidal, the team’s leading scorer for the season.
The Bombers proved worthy challengers, but succumbed in the end, missing the Final Four for the first time in six years.
JRU came closest at 59-60 after a Decoy Lopez layup midway through the payoff period, but Alano, Omorogbe, and Elopre provided the key baskets for the Altas to take the fight out of the Bombers.
“Sinabi lang ni coach na kung sino ang pinakamalaki ang puso, siya ang mananalo,” Alano said. “Uhaw na uhaw na kami sa Final Four, buti nakapasok na kami.”
Perpetual (73) – Alano 14, Omorogbe 14, Elopre 12, Arboleda 8, Babayemi 7, Paulino 7, Vidal 6, Thompson 5, Allen 0, Jolangcob 0.
JRU (68) – Villarias 19, Lopez 17, Dela Paz 8, Almario 7, Carampil 5, Mendoza 4, Mabulac 4, Salaveria 2, Porter 2, Matute 0, Maconocido 0, Monserat 0.
Quarterscores: 22-19; 41-35; 53-50; 73-68.