UNIVERSITY of Perpetual Help definitely missed the presence of Nicholas Omorogbe in the Altas’ 65-71 loss to San Sebastian on Saturday in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament.
Without the versatile Nigerian forward, out with a recurring right-knee injury, the Altas suffered a fourth straight loss and seventh overall against 11 wins.
Once flirting with the top spot after compiling a 7-2 record at the end of the first round, the Altas, although already secured of a semifinal berth, are now in danger of ending up in fourth spot if the fourth-running Stags (10-7) win their last game.
Altas coach Aric del Rosario said it was better to lose now than in the semifinals, when Omorogbe is expected to return.
“Pag dating sa Final Four, hindi ka na pwede matalo dun. Sabi ko wag muna nating pwersahin yan para maging ready siya sa Final Four.”
Del Rosario said the import aggravated his injury in the team’s 76-78 overtime loss to San Beda – which started the Altas’ losing streak -- last September 26 when he played 41 minutes, and finished with 23 points (7-of-24 shooting), 12 boards, four assists, four steals, two blocks, and seven turnovers.
As a result, Omorogbe, one of the league leaders in minutes played per game, suited up for just 14 minutes and scored nine points in the Altas’ shock 61-84 loss to Lyceum four days later.
His playing time continued to drop in Perpetual Help’s 61-74 defeat at the hands of Letran last October 10 when he played just six minutes and scored two points.
“I think ang ginagawa ng Perpetual they’re also psyching themselves for the Final Four, so maybe it’s part of their game plan to get other players involved and rest Omorogbe,” Letran coach Caloy Garcia said after the Knights’ win versus Perpetual Help.
Del Rosario finally decided to rest Omorogbe in the Altas’ latest loss, but refused to say it was a strategy.
“Hindi. Gusto ko nga manalo dito, kaya lang ayaw ko ma-aggravate `yung injury niya.”
Skipper Harold Arboleda was forced to take more of the scoring load in the absence of Omorogbe, tallying a team-high 23 points on 14 attempts, on top of seven rebounds and one assist in 31 minutes.
“Nag-take advantage lang ako na wala si Omorogbe, pero ginagawa ko pa rin naman yung depensa,” Arboleda said.