EMERGING as a surprise MVP candidate by delivering in the shadows of his more heralded teammates at University of Perpetual Help, Harold Arboleda came through in the clutch by scoring the game's last four points to lift the Altas to a close 82-80 win over Arellano in NCAA men’s basketball action on Monday at The Arena in San Juan.
The senior forward buried four late charities and also secured crucial rebounds down the stretch as the Altas notched their eighth victory in 10 games to keep in step with leaders by grabbing a piece of second place with defending champion San Beda.
The Las Piñas-based dribblers also dealt the Chiefs their seventh loss in 10 games.
Arboleda finished with just nine points and five boards – numbers that somehow pale compared to those of Nicholas Omorogbe and Juneric Baloria, who both did their damage before Arboleda stepped up.
Omorogbe, the Nigerian forward, tallied 26 points, 12 boards, and four assists, while Baloria, the rookie sensation from Lanao del Norte, chipped in 10 of his 14 markers in the payoff period, including a tough triple that made it 71-64 for Perpetual halfway through the quarter.
“Mas okay na yung nakatutok sa kanila (yung spotlight),” Arboleda said. “At least, ako timing-timing lang at kung palarin, mas maganda.”
The Altas led most of the way but saw the Chiefs threaten late in the game and even take the lead 80-78 after an AJ Serjue breakaway layup with two minutes and 14 seconds to go.
Arboleda, though, rose to the occasion by calmly sinking two charities for the tie after getting fouled by Keith Agovida with less than two minutes remaining. The Altas team captain returned to the stripe for two free-throws with only 6.3 ticks left after getting fouled by Ralph Salcedo off an offensive rebound to seal the deal.
“Talagang yang batang yan wala na akong masasabi dyan kasi kayod lang ng kayod, walang reklamo,” Altas coach Aric del Rosario said of Arboleda. “Hindi maka-shoot o hindi mapasahan, ganon pa rin laro niya.”
“Hindi naman talaga ako offensive-minded eh,” said Arboleda, who turns 23 on September 9. “Gusto ko dun lang ako kumukuha ng kumpiyansa sa rebounds at pagdedepensa sa mga magagaling.”
Serjue then missed two potential game-tying charities in the next possession that could have forced overtime for the Chiefs.
Perpetual (82) – Omorogbe 26, Baloria 14, Thompson 11, Arboleda 9, Alano 9, Jolangcob 6, Elopre 3, Dizon 2, Bitoy 2, Oliveria 0, Ylagan 0, Bantayan 0, Lucente 0
Arellano (80) – Agovida 17, Hernandez 16, Caperal 14, Pinto 12, Nicholls 5, Salcedo 4, Bangga 4, Serjue 4, Jalalon 3, Gumaru 1, Cadavis 0
Quarterscores: 21-19, 40-39, 59-53, 82-80