UNIVERSITY of Perpetual Help’s top two guards vows to sustain their harmonious partnership when the Altas battle Emilio Aguinaldo College on Saturday in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament at The Arena in San Juan.
Juneric Baloria and Earl Thompson, who formed a deadly combination that served as one of the keys to victory in their last outing, take the spotlight when the Altas gun for solo second place in their 6 p.m. face-off with the Generals.
Baloria, the pride of Lanao del Norte, has emerged as the league’s top Rookie of the Year candidate.
But his emergence is partly due to the early struggles of Thompson, with whom he shares the two-guard position and who’s still recovering from a back injury that sidelined him the whole summer.
Although still feeling the effects of the injury, Thompson is now slowly regaining the form that made him the Most Improved Player last year.
His recovery was none more evident than in the Altas’ 82-80 thriller over Arellano last Monday when the Digos City-born cager registered 11 points on 5-of-8 shooting, along with three boards, two assists, one steal, and one block in just 15 minutes of play.
As he continues to get back in tip-top shape which also entails extended playing time, Thompson assured his tandem with Baloria, who had 14 points against the Chiefs, is only bound to get better.
“Maganda (ang relationship namin),” Thompson said. “Wala naman kaming inggitan nyan kasi nagkaka-intindihan kami.”
“Pag hindi ako nakakapaglaro ng maayos, sinasabi ko sa kanya ‘sa ’yo na ‘to. Yung scoring mo, tuloy-tuloy mo na.’ At tsaka sa team namin, gusto ko may Rookie of the Year,” Thompson added.
Altas coach Aric del Rosario is counting heavily on the Thompson-Baloria tandem as Perpetual looks to pounce on a weary Generals side still smarting from a 69-90 beating at the hands of San Sebastian last Thursday.
Behind Cameroonian Cedric Happi and Jan Jamon, the Generals try to improve their 4-6 win-loss card and maintain their hold on sixth place.
Meanwhile, College of St. Benilde tries to add to the misery of Mapua when the two squads collide in the 4 p.m. first game.
The Blazers, sporting a similar slate as EAC, face a cellar-dwelling Cardinals side that is hoping to end an eight-game losing slide.