PERPETUAL Help held off College of St. Benilde, 65-62, behind another MVP-worthy performance from Earl Thompson to solidify its Final Four bid in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament on Wednesday at The Arena in San Juan.
Thompson, the frontrunner for the league’s top individual plum, played steady down the stretch where he conspired with Justine Alano to lead the Altas to their 11th win in 17 games.
That allowed the Las Pinas-based dribblers to snatch third spot from their victims, who fell to a tie in fourth spot with Jose Rizal University with a 10-6 win-loss card.
“Gusto ko lang talaga manalo,” said Thompson, who flirted with a triple-double with 20 points, 12 boards, and eight assists, on top of two steals and one block.
The Altas also did San Beda a favor, giving the idle defending champions the first-twice-to-beat edge in the semifinals.
In a battle of two Final Four aspirants, it was the Altas who showed more determination to go for the win in this crucial stage of the tournament, building a second-half lead that grew to 13 points 40-29, midway through the third quarter.
The Blazers, seeking their first postseason appearance since 2002, rallied to cut the deficit to a solitary point, 56-57, after a Mark Romero triple early in the fourth quarter.
Then Thompson took over.
The pride of Digos City had a hand in almost all the Altas’ plays in the endgame: an assist to Alano, a reverse layup that gave them a 65-58 cushion, and an offensive rebound that doomed the Blazers when they made a last push.
Alano finished with 15 points and was one rebound short of a double-double, while Baloria scored the same output and added four caroms, four assists, two blocks and one steal.
“Grabe lang talaga ang puso ng mga bata,” Altas coach Aric del Rosario said of his wards.
UPHSD 65 – Thompson 20, Alano 15, Baloria 15, Dagangon 8, Arboleda 5, Lucente 2, Oliveria 0, Ylagan 0, Gallardo 0, Sadiwa 0, Jolangcob 0.
CSB 62 – Romero 24, Taha 10, Sinco 8, Grey 6, Saavedra 5, Altamirano 3, Nayve 2, Pajarillaga 2, Ongteco 2, Jonson 0, Bartolo 0.
Quarterscores: 14-15; 38-27; 52-48; 65-62.