All season long, Arellano had relied on Kent Salado to get it out of trouble.
But with the lead guard out for the season due to a slight MCL tear on his right knee, it’s the Chiefs’ turn to rally behind their main man.
“I told them that with or without Kent, we will play and we will do our best,” said coach Jerry Codiñera. “Let’s offer it to Kent because he’ll miss the whole playoffs, and if ever we make it as far as the Finals, he’s still going to be out.”
Luckily for the PBA great, the players heard his plea loud and clear as the Chiefs drubbed Perpetual, 62-52, on Thursday to continue their Final Four drive and improve to an 8-9 card.
Levi Dela Cruz and Rence Alcoriza were instrumental in helping the Chiefs rack up their third straight win in the homestretch of the eliminations.
“We’re really sad that Salado is not playing with us. But we stepped up and covered for each other. We tried to make up for what Kent was doing for us,” said dela Cruz, who was installed as the team’s starting point guard in lieu of Salado.
“We just did our jobs and whatever coach asked of us. We know how big Salado’s absence is, so it serves as a motivation for us to do what we’re supposed to do whenever we’re on the floor. We’re inspired because we know we have to step up without our main man.”
Alcoriza contributed 16 markers and seven boards off the bench, and dela Cruz continued to dazzle with his 11 points, four rebounds, and four assists.
Lervin Flores, meanwhile, topscored for Arellano with 19 points, eight rebounds, four blocks, and two assists.
With the way his players took the cudgels for their lost leader, Codiñera is confident that Arellano can get the job done going into its final assignment against Mapua on Tuesday.
“They say it’s difficult that we lost the conductor. And it is because it’s just the passengers that are left,” he said. “But with this game, we had a newfound confidence that they can win without him.”
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