NARD John Pinto just closed the door on Lyceum behind a terrific performance that was long in coming and capped by a dramatic game-winning basket.
Off a broken play, the sophomore guard from Davao took matters into his own hands and hit the go-ahead jumper with less than two seconds remaining to lift Arellano to a 76-75 squeaker over the Pirates on Thursday, pumping new life to the Chiefs’ fading Final Four hopes in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament at The Arena in San Juan.
The shot capped a late comeback and powered the Chiefs to only their fourth victory in 12 games, tying their victims in eighth place.
“Miracle shot,” said Pinto, whose shot initially bounced off the ring before going in. “No choice na eh. Yung play para kay Prince (Caperal) pero nag-sag sila sa kanya, so kinuha ko na.”
It was a welcome showing from Pinto, who had been experiencing the so-called “sophomore slump.”
“Sa tulong ng mga coaches, they always cheer me up at sobrang supportive nila sa akin,” Pinto said. Ngayon lang maganda laro ko.”
In all, Pinto fired 11 of his 15 points in the payoff period as he overshadowed another solid performance by fourth-year slotman Prince Caperal, who did most of his damage for Arellano in the first three quarters en route to a 25-point, 16-rebound, and four-assist effort.
“I got nothing to do with it. I just have to give credit to these two guys,” Chiefs coach Koy Banal said, his voice cracking as he referred to Pinto and Caperal.
The Chiefs overcame a Pirates side that had been oozing with confidence after coming off an 80-76 conquest of league-leading Letran the last time.
Playing without star forward James Forrester, who fouled out late in the third canto, the Chiefs overhauled a seven-point deficit with less than three minutes remaining behind Pinto, Keith Agovida, and Levi Hernandez.
Aziz Mbomiko, recently named NCAA Press Corps Player of the Week, led the Chiefs Lyceum with 17 points, but committed a crucial inbound violation that set the stage for Pinto’s late-game heroics.
Shane Ko, who provided offensive support to Mbomiko, missed a desperation triple from the backcourt as time expired.
Arellano (76) -- Caperal 25, Pinto 15, Agovida 11, Salcedo 8, Forrester 8, Hernandez 5, Margallo 4, Gumaru 0, Jalalon 0, Nicholls 0, Bangga 0, Serjue 0, Cadavis 0.
Lyceum (75) -- Mbomiko 17, Zamora 15, Ko 15, Baltazar 6, Francisco 6, Ambohot 6, Lesmoras 4, Lacastesantos 3, Azores 2, Mendoza 1, Taladua 0.
Quarterscores: 15-14; 31-31; 55-55; 76-75.