|Perpetual Help's Harold Arboleda pats teammate Flash Sadiwa on the head for a heads up play late in the game against La Salle.|
This appears in the Monday, June 2, 2014 edition of the Business Mirror.
A lesson about heart
by rick olivares
There were two scenes that most of the thousand-plus people in attendance did not see following the Perpetual Help Altas’ 98-95 win over De La Salle at the San Juan Arena to close out the elimination round of the Filoil Flying V Hanes Premier Cup.
The first was where Harold Arboleda, Earl Thompson, and Juneric Baloria made their way to the pressroom for the post-match interview and De La Salle Zobel head coach Boris Aldeguer whose team was on deck for the next match greeted them. It was Aldeguer who helped recruit them when he was head coach of Perpetual Help years ago.
Their former coach clasped hands with Arboleda and Thompson who both managed a grin. “What a win,” said Aldeguer in the vernacular. “Am proud that you never gave up.” They shared a quick man hug then parted ways.
Their time together in Las Piñas was tumultuous. It was in this very same Filoil tournament where the Altas were kicking butt and taking names when they had the likes Jett Vidal, George Allen, Raffy Ynion, Chris Elopre, Arboleda, Justine Alano, and two players who would be at the center of an eligibility storm that would last for two years and lead to Aldeguer’s eventual mid-season resignation – Marlon Gomez and Paul Nuilan.
The NCAA declared the latter two ineligible to play for lack of residency but I showed them proof that was otherwise. The league nevertheless stuck to their decision. That left the Altas without their two big men and they got killed in the NCAA.
The succeeding seasons would see the fall and eventual return of the Altas under veteran coach Aric del Rosario.
And that leads to the second scene.
Del Rosario shuffled into the pressroom where his three players waited for him post-win over La Salle. He was choked with emotion as he groped for his words… “Hindi pa kami naglalaro ng La Salle wala akong narinig na nagsasabi na mananalo kami….”
His voice trailed off. Trying to check his emotions, coach could only slap the knee of Juneric Baloria – who topscored with 43 points – who sat next to him.
Sensing a highly emotional scene and as media officer, I shifted the interview to the players.
Added Baloria, “Kasi last game namin sa Filoil kailangan namin ibuhos. Kasi do-or-die. Kailangan namin magsipag. Nag-huddle kami bago magumpisa laro. Nagusap kami na laban tayo. Pakita din natin kung sino tayo.”
Thompson also agreed: “Gusto naming sana maglaro sa quarterfinals. At least napakita namin na kaya namin talunin ang La Salle. Marami kasi nagsasabi na hindi namin kaya talunin ang La Salle.”
Chimed in Arboleda, “Sila (DLSU) ang lumaglag sa amin sa PCCL. Ngayon nakabawi naman.”
Then we went back to Del Rosario who dabbed his eyes with tissue paper. “Naiiyak ako. Lahat ng tao nag-favor sa isa at wala kami sa La Salle. Kaya sabi ko pakita natin na pwede talunin. Wala kaming malaking player. Kapag puso ng player gusto manalo ay mananalo.”
All pre-season, the undersized Altas played teams with taller players, deeper benches, and reinforced squads with talented Africans. They had beaten all save for Southwestern University to whom they lost to at the buzzer. They played with essentially four players leading the way while the bench had to be cajoled into showing up.
Against La Salle, they were awarded fewer free throws (59-39 although they made 31 while the Green Archers flubbed 19) and gave up more rebounds, 57-43. What the Altas had going for them was fewer turnovers 6 to 20 and a huge fourth quarter where they pumped in 41 points to the 22 of La Salle (Baloria matched the Green Archers’ output in the final canto).
The two seniors matches that day had plenty of bearing in the playoffs. The first was between the hitherto undefeated teams in FEU and San Beda for the number one slot of Group B and either number one or two for the play-off standings based on quotient. The Tams weathered the repeated rallies by the Red Lions for a huge win that says a lot about their team’s potential.
If the first match was a good game the second was a classic. And a lesson about having a fighting heart.
The Altas needed to win by five points if they wanted to advance to the quarterfinals. A win by the Green Archers or even a loss – as long as it was less than five points – would send them into the knockout round with either outcome having bearing on their next opponent. A loss by five or more points and they’d be out while handing Perpetual Help the wild card seed.
The Altas were down by as much as 20, 44-24 after a Matt Salem trey. But slowly, Perpetual Help clawed their way back sans Justine Alano who was saddled by fouls and later fouled out leaving Del Rosario without his undersized power forward/center.
Without Alano’s usual production, Gabriel Dagangon came up big scoring 15 points.
With less five minutes to play, the Altas were within a bucket, 80-78. But La Salle’s cool outside sniper Almond Vosotros drilled a three to ease the pressure. But Arboleda caught fire. After scoring only two points in the first 35 minutes, the do-it-all forward who sometimes plays the point guard position scored 10 points on a pair of threes, a putback, and two free throws that gave Perpetual Help a five-point lead with 8.5 seconds left. But a Baloria foul with 3.8 seconds left sent Arnold Van Opstal to the line. The La Salle center made good on both that despite the loss dashed Perpetual Help’s dream of advancing to the next stage of the tourney.
There were mixed emotions all right for both squads post-game as everyone including the crowd in attendance wondered who was moving on to the next round.
Del Rosario understood, “Nasa rules yan,” he agreed about his team not advancing.
However, he left one last message for his Altas’ NCAA foes, “At least meron na matatakot sa amin kasi tinalo namin champions sa UAAP at sila yung favored ulit ngayon mag-repeat.”
Filoil final elims standings, q'finals seeding and sked
Filoil final elims standings, q'finals seeding and sked