AS the final buzzer sounded, Nard Pinto tried to run away from his teammates who mobbed him.
But just moments ago, the senior playmaker embraced the challenge in front of him as he scored the go-ahead putback that turned almost certain defeat into victory, lifting the Chiefs to a 67-66 win over College of St. Benilde on Friday in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament at The Arena in San Juan.
With the Chiefs down by a point, the 5-foot-11 point guard came out of nowhere and grabbed the rebound off a missed charity by Dioncee Holts then threw a desperation layup to rescue the title contenders from the jaws of defeat.
“Sabi ko bahala na ‘to. Binato ko na lang yung bola,” Pinto said after the pulsating match. “Thank you kay Lord pumasok.”
“I’ve always trusted his judgment,” Chiefs coach Jerry Codiñera said of 23-year-old Pinto, who scored a team-high 19 points, none more important than the last two that negated his seven turnovers.
The pride of Davao’s heroics enabled the Chiefs to end their first-round campaign with seven wins in nine games to move a half-game behind league-leading San Beda.
The Chiefs also snapped the Blazers’ four-game winning streak, dropping their victims to sixth spot with an even 4-4 win-loss card.
For a while, though, the Blazers seemed poised to extend their impressive run as they were on the driver’s seat, 66-64, after Paolo Taha made the first of two free throws with 16.5 seconds left.
The veteran forward could’ve iced the game, instead he missed his next two foul-line attempts, the second off a lane violation from the Chiefs.
It was also Taha who fouled Holts on the other end, which set the stage for Pinto’s endgame winner.
As a consolation, the Blazers limited the Chiefs, the league’s highest-scoring team averaging over 80 points per game, below their norm.
“Hindi kami nakatakbo. But my players were able to adapt to the rhythm na binigay sa kanila,” said Codiñera, whose team outrebounded the Blazers, 65-35.
AU 67 – Pinto 19, Jalalon 12, Agovida 8, Holts 7, Salcedo 6, Bangga 4, Gumaru 3, Ciriacruz 2, Palma 2, Caperal 2, Enriquez 2, Nicholls 0, Hernandez 0, Ortega 0, Cadavis 0
CSB 66 – Romero 21, Taha 16, Grey 13, Saavedra 7, Pajarillaga 4, Sinco 4, Bartolo 1, Jonson 0, Nayve 0, Argamino 0, Ongteco 0, Altamirano 0
Quarterscores: 15-8, 30-26, 47-46, 67-66