This appears on philstar.com
Aric del Rosario shows a lot of emotion after Altas’ win over SBC
by rick olivares pic from UPHSD's website
The old warhorse wept.
There may be no crying in baseball but there sure is in basketball.
Seconds after the Perpetual Help Altas, near brilliant, near maddening all game long, scored on a game-winning basket at the buzzer to pip San Beda, 88-86, the team’s head coach, Aric del Rosario wiped the tears from his eyes. At one point, he had to lean on his son, Lester, who is the Altas’ assistant and has been by his side since the 1990s in UST.
He wept some more during the post-match press conference where he struggled to find the words to share his thoughts, from what his heart said, that he had to borrow Scottie Thompson’s towel to stop the tears from flowing.
Inside his team’s dugout, del Rosario, confided in the vernacular, “When I was coaching UST, you couldn’t believe the uphill climb we had. We were one of the old powers of the league. Then UP was going to the finals, FEU kept winning. UE was winning. Then Ateneo and La Salle began to dominate. It took a while before we won again.”
“Here in Perpetual Help, it isn’t like UST. This is a team that hasn’t done well in a long time. There have been good players who come and go and it is a waste. I am thankful to the school to be given a chance to help. We have been playing well the past few years but we were always lacking a critical piece or lacking in maturity. Imagine this year if I had (Harold) Arboleda or (Juneric) Baloria to complement Scottie (Thompson) and Bright (Akhuetie).”
“It is never easy beating San Beda,” added del Rosario whose Altas lost by a twinner in the first round, 83-81, following a botched fastbreak layup by AJ Coronel and two missed free throws by Scottie Thompson in the endgame. “They (the Red Lions) squeeze the most out of you. You have to play the perfect game to beat them because of their class and experience. It wasn’t the perfect game for us. Bright was fantastic. He kept us in the game all throughout. Scottie didn’t have the prettiest of games but his assists are a joy to watch. And John Ylagan was very good tonight.”
The game saw both San Beda and Perpetual Help battle through 16 lead changes and 13 deadlocks. They exchanged mind-boggling errors in the endgame — a turnover by Scottie Thompson; an inbound error by Art dela Cruz; an inbound error by the Altas that saw Red Lions stalwart Art dela Cruz steal the ball and scoot in for what was could have been the marginal basket except in rimmed out; and with the game clock winding down, an unlikely drop pass Nestor Bantayan to Akhuetie who scored on an undergoal stab.
The 6’8” Akhuetie was brilliant all game long. He scored 31 points on 14-17 shooting including one thunderous dunk over Red Lions center Ola Adeogun. The Altas’ Nigerian center also grabbed 11 boards, had four assists, two steals, one block against one turnover.
After Akhuetie’s monstrous slam, even del Rosario celebrated. “I could never dunk. Even during my playing days (for UST), I couldn’t jump that high. So I just celebrate what my players can do. For so long Ola would dunk on other players. Now we had the chance to do the same to him.”
It was a big win for the Altas because they moved up to 9-4; good for solo third place behind pace-setting Letran at 11-2, and San Beda at 10-3. The Arellano Chiefs are at 9-4 as well but rank fourth owing to the quotient system. The hot and cold Mapua Cardinals are at 7-5 are on the outside looking in.
“If we had lost, we would have fallen to 8-5,” reasoned del Rosario. “There are a lot of other teams that have chances to advance — Arellano, Mapua, Jose Rizal. Now that you are in the Final Four hunt of course you want to get any of the first two seeds because you have a twice-to-beat advantage. It is something nice to have if you want to make the finals.”
At 75 years of age, del Rosario who has been in the game for practically all his life, hopes that he can lead his Altas to glory. “We want a winning program too so that our players will be given chances that they deserve. It is hard if you do not come from the UAAP schools. Sometimes you aren’t given a look at all.”
To date, the one Altas player who made a name for himself in the PBA is Bong Hawkins. His Altas and national teammate, Jomer Rubi, didn’t have much success in the pros. "Look at our players in the PBA -- Baloria, Arboleda. They don’t give them chances. Scottie was drafted by Ginebra. Hopefully, he will be given a chance. If we can win consistently, teams will take a better look at us.”
No doubt, with Akhuetie back after missing a couple of matches with a shoulder injury, del Rosario’s squad can solidify its bid for a Final Four or top two seed slot.
With the Friday night crowd still at the Filoil Flying V Arena due to the heavy rains, Aric del Rosario, now more composed, stepped out. He accepted handshakes, greetings, and high fives from fans and even Bedan supporters. The rain on his face masked his tears.
Additional reading on Aric del Rosario and the Perpetual Help Altas: