By JEROME LAGUNZAD
(The Arena, San Juan City)
12 noon – Lyceum vs SBC (Jrs)
2 p.m. – Lyceum vs SBC (Srs)
4 p.m. – SSC vs Perpetual (Srs)
6 p.m. – SSC vs Perpetual (Jrs)
Life without top playmaker Kent Salado isn’t tough at all for Arellano University.
With diminutive guard Levi Dela Cruz leading the way, the resurgent Chiefs turned back the eliminated Mapua Cardinals, 81-64, yesterday to gain at least a playoff for the fourth – and final – semifinal spot in the 93rd NCAA seniors basketball tournament at The Arena in San Juan City.
The 5-foot-9 Dela Cruz scored a team-high 20 points, eight of them coming in the final period, on top of five assists, three rebounds and two steals.
Salado has been ruled out for the rest of the season due to a torn medial cruciate ligament on his right knee.
Arellano cruised to its fourth straight victory that could assure it of the fourth and final spot with a 9-9 win-loss record.
The Chiefs could formally secure a return trip to the Final Four if Letran (8-9) drops its final assignment against St. Benilde which is being played at press time and host San Sebastian (8-9) falls prey to also-ran Perpetual Help tomorrow.
“For a rookie, he’s very outstanding,” said Arellano coach Jerry Codiñera of Dela Cruz whom he sees as a “mini version” of former star playmaker Jio Jalalon. “Napalaki ng future niya. He just needs to mature well and continue his improvement.”
Big man Christian Buñag put on another monster performance of 22 points and 16 rebounds but Mapua ran out of steam in the crunch and wound up dead-last with a 3-15 record – its worst finish in the last four years.
Earlier, also-ran Emilio Aguinaldo College salvaged some ounce of pride by defeating Perpetual Help 83-81.
Forward Jerome Garcia sizzled with 22 points, spiked by four triples, while pro-bound Sidney Onwubere collected 15 points, nine rebounds and four assists in his farewell game as the Generals snapped a five-game losing skid and closed out their campaign on a positive note with a 7-11 record.
“At least, nalagpasan namin yung record namin last year,” said the 6-foot-4 Onwubere. “Masaya ako kasi halos lahat nag-contribute. Lahat may ginawa. Hopefully, for the guys, makatulong ‘to for next year.”
Nigerian Prince Eze had 21 points and nine rebounds while three other teammates scored in double figures in a losing cause for the Altas, who absorbed their seventh straight setback and 13th overall against four victories.
EAC 83 – Garcia 22, J. Mendoza 17, Onwubere 15, Bugarin 12, Bautista 6, Diego 6, Neri 3, Tampoc 2, Corilla 0, I.
PERPETUAL 81 – Eze 21, Ylagan 17, Yuhico 13, Coronel 10, Dagangon 7, Lucente 4, Pido 4, Tamayo 3, Sadiwa 2.
Quarters: 25-19, 37-39, 64-59, 83-81.
ARELLANO 81 – Dela Cruz 20, Flores 14, Nicholls 11, Alcoriza 8, Cañete 6, Enriquez 6, Viloria 5, Meca 4, Taywan 4, Abanes 3, Concepcion 0, Ongolo Ongolo 0, Padilla 0, Filart 0.
MAPUA 64 – Buñag 22, Pelayo 9, Victoria 8, Gabo 7, Estrella 6, Orquina 5, Raflores 4, Jimenez 3, Aguirre 0.
Quarters: 17-13, 39-28, 58-48, 81-64.