THE Arellano Chiefs, angling to advance to the next round of Season 93 of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) via the backdoor, boosted its push by defeating the Perpetual Help Altas, 62-52, at the FilOil Flying V Centre in San Juan City.
Needing to sweep their two remaining games, including against yesterday’s contest, to at least earn a playoff for the lone semifinal slot left, the Chiefs kept their playoff hopes alive by bouncing back from a slow start and staving off the Altas.
Despite already eliminated from the race, Perpetual Help came up with a spirited fight to start the game and earn a 17-14 lead at the end of the opening frame.
The two teams then tightly fought it out in the second canto.
Arellano came within one point, 23-22, with a little under three minutes remaining in the first half before Rence Alcoriza gave the lead to the Chiefs for the first time, 25-23, with a three-pointer.
The Chiefs completed their turnaround by building a 29-23 advantage by the halftime break.
With momentum on its side, Arellano built on its lead at the beginning of the third quarter, going on a 7-0 run to take their lead to 13 points, 36-23, with 6:30 to go in period.
Legarda-based Arellano eventually raced to a 48-34 cushion heading into the final 10 minutes of the game.
Now in control of the game, the Chiefs spent the payoff quarter making their assault to the finish line.
They held a 17-point lead, 56-39, with 5:10 to go before the Altas made a 13-6 push the rest of the way, which still proved not enough to derail Arellano.
Lervin Flores was the highest scorer for the Chiefs with 19 points to go along with eight boards.
Alcoriza had 16 points and seven rebounds while Levi dela Cruz finished with 11 markers to cushion the absence of floor leader Kent Salado, who did not play after hyperextending his right leg in their last game.
AJ Coronel led Perpetual Help (4-12) with 14 points with Prince Eze adding 11 points and 22 rebounds.
“We missed Kent today and it showed in our slow start as we had a tough time scoring. But the players grew confident as the game progressed and we won to stay in contention,” said Arellano coach Jerry Codiñera after their win.
With the win, the Chiefs improved to 8-9 for solo fifth place, behind the fourth-running Letran Knights (8-8) and half a game ahead of the San Sebastian Stags (7-9).
All three are still in the hunt for the playoffs and hoping to join already-qualified Lyceum Pirates (16-0), San Beda Red Lions (15-1) and Jose Rizal University (JRU) Heavy Bombers (11-6).
Meanwhile, games today at the FilOil Flying V Centre will see the Mapua Cardinals battle San Sebastian at 12 noon, San Beda versus Letran at 2 p.m. and Lyceum against JRU at 4 p.m. — Michael Angelo S. Murillo