JUNERIC Baloria chose one priority over another last weekend and suffered a double whammy as a consequence.
The University of Perpetual Help rookie sensation had his worst game in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament on Tuesday, resulting in the Altas’ 71-81 playoff defeat at the hands of San Sebastian that allowed the Stags to claim the third seed in the Final Four.
The 23-year-old shooting guard finished with only two points - all from the foul line after missing all his 11 shots -- three assists, and a single rebound as the Altas were relegated to fourth place.
Baloria, who’s averaging a league-best 19.5 points per game, blamed his woeful showing to his poor conditioning, the result of not practicing last Saturday and Sunday when he flew to his native Lanao del Norte to support the campaign of his dad, who ran for a final term as barangay captain.
The celebrated Perpetual Help rookie said coach Aric del Rosario almost didn’t allow him to leave when he asked permission to go to his province.
“Muntik na nga ako hindi payagan, pero nagmakaawa lang ako.”
It turned out the risk didn’t pay off as Baloria’s dad lost to a rival by a mere 23 votes during the elections on Monday.
A day later, the Altas lost to the Stags and arranged a daunting semifinal matchup against top seed and defending champion San Beda.
“Wala ako sa kondisyon,” said Baloria, who played 18 minutes. “Hindi ako gaano makasabay sa kanila.”
“Pero gagawin ko sa abot ng aking makakaya na magampanan ko ulit yung expectations,” the lefty gunner added ahead of the Altas’ November 7 duel with the twice-to-beat Lions.
“Kailangan ko mag-extra work para mahabol ko `yung conditioning.”