UNIVERSITY of Perpetual Help leaned on the heroics of Harold Arboleda to escape San Beda, 76-75, on Monday and bolster its Final Four hopes in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament at The Arena in San Juan.
Arboleda, part of the Altas’ terrific trio, buried the go-ahead free throws as his team averted a late collapse to notch a ninth win in 15 games that nudged them just a half-game behind joint third placers Jose Rizal University and College of St. Benilde.
The Altas thus avenged their 75-77 first-round loss to the Lions and snapped a six-game skid against their tormentors that dated back two years ago, dealing the league-leading side only their third loss in 16 games this season.
Altas coach Aric del Rosario was teary-eyed after the triumph.
“Hindi ko akalain na mananalo kami, kasi ang lalaki ng kalaban,” the veteran mentor said, referring to the Lions, who boast 6-foot-8 Ola Adeogun and 6-foot-6 Kyle Pascual. “Pero sabi ko laro lang tayo, baka sakali maka-tsamba.”
The Altas didn’t rely on just luck as they built a double-digit lead as many as 13 points in the first three quarters on sheer hard work and determination.
Juneric Baloria typified the Altas’ eagerness in the early goings, scoring his game-high 22 points in the first three quarters.
But the Lions fought back, outscoring the Altas 26-13, in the final frame to set the stage for another thrilling finish.
With the Altas trailing, 74-75, Arboleda drew a desperation foul on Art dela Cruz while attempting a three-pointer with only two-tenths of a second remaining.
Arboleda missed the first, but calmly knocked down the last two to ensure the hard-earned victory.
UPHSD 76 – Baloria 22, Dagangon 18, Alano 12, Arboleda 9, Thompson 7, Jolangcob 6, Oliveria 2, Bantayan 0, Gallardo 0
SBC 75 – Adeogun 20, Amer 10, Mendoza 10, Dela Cruz 9, A. Semerad 8, Tongco 8, Cabanag 4, Pascual 4, Koga 2, Abatayo 0, D. Semerad 0, Sorela 0
Quarterscores: 15-13, 34-31, 63-49, 76-75