JET Vidal underscored his growing reputation as a clutch performer as he propelled University of Perpetual Help to a 78-74 victory over College of St. Benilde on Monday night in the 88th NCAA men’s basketball tournament at The Arena in San Juan.
The 23-year-old Vidal showed steely nerves in the endgame as the third-year shooter scored the insurance points in the final minute to bail the Altas anew after the Blazers mounted a late comeback.
“Sinabi ko lang sa kanya na siya ang veteran dito at siya ang aasahan. Swerte naman nag-respond siya,” Altas coach Aric del Rosario said of Vidal, who finished with 21 points on 8-of-19 shooting.
The Altas' seventh win in 10 games put them in a three-way tie for second place with San Sebastian and Jose Rizal University.
The path to the Final Four seems clearer now for the Altas, who last made the playoffs eight years ago when they lost in the Finals to Philippine Christian University.
But Del Rosario has warned his team against complacency as the crucial phase of the tournament approaches.
“Ang mahirap sa ligang ‘to, yung mga nasa baba talagang gusto manalo (sa second round) kaya hindi talaga pwede magpabaya,” Del Rosario said.
The Blazers, who dropped to 3-7, erased a 51-67 deficit early in the fourth and crept to within one, 72-73, with one minute and 22 seconds to go, before Vidal buried a three and two charities in the ensuing possessions to seal the deal for Perpetual.
PERPETUAL (78) – Vidal 21, Jolangcob 14, Omorogbe 11, Paulino 8, Thompson 7, Arboleda 7, Babayemi 4, Alano 4, Allen 2, Elopre 0
ST. BENILDE (74) – Lastimosa 23, Taha 14, Romero 9, Sinco 6, Bartolo 5, Grey 3, Altamirano 2, Deles , Ongteco 0, Garcia 0.
Quarterscores: 13-14, 41-31, 65-51, 78-74