Chiefs secure playoff for last semis berth
Arellano University pummeled Mapua University secured a playoff for the semifinals seat.
Missing a key player in injured Kent Salado, point guard Levi Dela Cruz stepped up to keep Arellano University in contention for the last 93rd NCAA seniors basketball competition semifinals seat.
The 5-foot-9 Dela Cruz set the pace for the Chiefs' blow out win over the Mapua University Cardinals, 81-64, as Arellano secured a playoff for the last semis seat at the close its elimination round campaign at the FilOil Flying V Centre in San Juan Tuesday.
Dela Cruz exploded for 20 points on a 7-of-13 field goal clip, including 4-of-5 from the three-point area while adding five assists, three rebounds and a pair of steals for the Legarda-based squad, who ended the elims with a 9-9 win-loss record.
The victory assured the Chiefs, whose court general Salado is out for at least a month after sustaining an MCL injury in his right knee, of a playoff for the right to join unbeaten Lyceum of the Philippines University, defending champion San Beda College and Jose Rizal University in the semis.
“Siyempre medyo talagang struggling kami talaga. ‘Yung wins, deceiving ‘yun, nag-struggle kami sa chemistry kasi wala si Kent,” said Chiefs coach Jerry Codinera. “Meron din namang upside kasi may chance ang iba to play in the system na wala si Kent. We still believe in teamwork, maniwala pa rin kayo dun.”
Letran (8-9) and San Sebastian College (8-9) are also in contention for the last semis berth. A two-way tie will force a playoff while in case of a three-way logjam at 9-9 there will be a stepladder playoff for the no. 4 spot.
Lervin Flores had 14 points while Zach Nicolls finished with 11 for Arellano.
Flores gave the Chiefs their biggest lead, 76-55, with 3:06 remaining in the match from an incomplete and-one play.
Christian Buñag started out hot, scoring 19 points in the first half but the Mapua big man went quite in the last two quarters to end up with 22 markers and 16 rebounds.
The Cardinals finished their season with a disappointing 3-15 record.
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.
Quarter scores: 17-13, 39-28, 58-48, 81-64.
Follow this writer on Twitter, @fromtheriles