Altas send Knights tumbling to first loss
Juneric Baloria formed a lethal combination with Nosa Omorogbe as Perpetual Help dealt Letran its first defeat of the 89th NCAA basketball tournament with a masterful 80-66 triumph last night at Filoil Flying V Arena in San Juan.
Baloria, a rookie playing like a wily veteran, pumped in 28 points, while the bull-strong Omorogbe added 25 to fuel a bristling Perpetual attack that powered the Altas to their sixth win in eight games.
Stung by a 65-72 loss to San Beda in its last outing, the Altas were on attack mode right from the get-go, taking the fight out of the sluggish Knights as early as the first period with their outside shooting and transition game.
With the loss, the Knights dropped to 7-1, although they still shared top spot with San Beda, which Letran will face on Aug. 24 at Mall of Asia Arena in the last game of the first round.
The Altas improved to 6-2, tightening their grip on the No. 3 spot with a game remaining in their first round schedule.
Later, Jose Rizal U relied on its suffocating defense when its offense sputtered to hack out a 61-49 victory over Lyceum.
The Bombers, who scored their fifth win in eight games, held the Pirates to just 22 points in the first half and survived despite making just one basket in the final period.
Omorogbe, who also grabbed 14 rebounds, got off to a sizzling start by firing 12 of his output in the first period, before Baloria virtually finished off the Knights with 16 points in the second half, where he helped douse repeated Letran uprisings.
So dominant were the Altas that the closest the Knights could get was at 59-71 midway in the fourth quarter when Reneford Ruaya scored on a layup. Baloria quickly answered with a trey and a lay-up for, 78-59, with 4:38 left.
“We wanted to come out fighting early,” said coach Aric Del Rosario. “We didn’t want to play catchup, just like what happened against San Beda.”
Explosive in the Knights’ last two victories, where he averaged 23.5 points, Mark Cruz struggled this time, finishing with just six points and two assists. Raymond Almazan had 15 points, but made just five of his 16 shots.
The Altas proved fluid offensively, dishing out 23 assists with Omorogbe accounting for seven.
“We treated the game like it’s the last game of the season,” said Omorogbe. “We knew Letran was comfortable with the halfcourt game, so we had to push the ball all the time.”
PERPETUAL HELP 80—Baloria 28, Omorogbe 25, Alano 12, Elopre 5, Bantayan 4, Dizon 3, Jolangcob 3, Oliveria 0, Thompson 0, Arboleda 0, Paulino 0, Bitoy 0.
LETRAN 66—Almazan 15, Racal 10, Ruaya 9, Tambeling 7, Castro 6, Cruz 6, Nambatac 5, Gabawan 3, Luib 2, Buenaflor 2, Belorio 1.
Quarters: 31-9, 49-28, 69-49, 80-66
JRU 61—Pontejos 16, Mabulac 14, dela Paz 11, Balagtas 6, Lasquety 5, Juanco 4, Salaveria 2, Grospe 2, Sanchez 1, Paniamogan 0.
LYCEUM 49—Mbomiko 13, Taladua 12, Lacastesantos 9, Lesmoras 6, Mendoza 4, Evangelista 3, Alanes 2, Azores 0, Baltazar 0, Soliman 0, Garcia 0, Ko 0.
Quarters: 18-13, 31-22, 15-12, 61-49