AS he crossed the half-court line, Nard John Pinto made the sign of the cross, signaled away teammate Keith Agovida — who wanted to set a screen — then plotted Arellano’s crucial offensive play.
With nerves of steel, the playmaking pride of Davao once again took matters into his own hands and his gamble paid off, scoring the marginal mid-range-jumper that lifted the Chiefs to a 71-70 squeaker over Emilio Aguinaldo College on Saturday in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament at the Arena in San Juan.
“Tsamba nanaman,” chuckled Pinto, who also scored the game-winner in the Chiefs’ 76-75 win over Lyceum three games back.
Pinto’s go-ahead basket with 46.8 seconds remaining made it 71-69 and the Generals only made a free throw from there as they fell short and ended their winning streak to three games.
The shot also capped off another splendid showing as he came up with a near triple-double of 18 points, nine boards and eight assists to lead the Chiefs, who notched a sixth win in 15 games that kept them mathematically alive in the playoff race.
The Chiefs’ hopes, though, also lie on the performance of other Final Four aspirants in San Sebastian, Jose Rizal University, and EAC.
“We just want to finish well,” Pinto said. “Nag-eenjoy na lang kami sa laro at wala nang pressure, so nakakalaro kami (ng gusto namin).”
The Generals dropped to an even 8-8 win-loss slate, but stayed in fifth spot and just a game behind the fourth-running Stags.
The loss spoiled the Generals’ fightback that saw them erase a 12-point fourth-quarter deficit, launching a run capped a John Tayongtong triple that knotted the count at 69 with a little less than two minutes to go.
Tayongtong, however, cost the Generals a chance to win as he miscalculated the game-clock, leaving them with insufficient time to take a shot in their last possession.
Chiefs coach Koy Banal excused himself from the post-game interview as he had to rush to the Cuneta Astrodome for the PBA semifinals between Petron and Rain or Shine. Banal is one of the deputies of Boosters head coach Gee Abanilla.
AU (71) – Pinto 18, Caperal 14, Forrester 8, Agovida 8, Hernandez 6, Serjue 6, Jalalon 5, Salcedo 4, Bangga 2, Gumaru 0, Cadavis 0.
EAC (70) – Jamon 21, Happi 17, Arquero 11, Tayongtong 6, Morada 5, Paguia 5, Onwubere 4, King 2, Munsayac 0.
Quarterscores: 17-13; 39-31; 59-47; 71-70.