Cameroon import Alfred Aroga came up big in the stretch as National U outfought University of the East in a tense finish on Wednesday 72-66 to set its title bid in the UAAP Season 79 men’s basketball tourney in motion at the Mall of Asia Arena.
The 6-foot-6 Aroga banged in 10 of his team-high 16 points in the final canto, including a tough lay-up for a 69-66 lead with 1:19 left to play, while adding 13 rebounds, four blocks and two assists in 27 minutes of play off the bench, giving the Bulldogs the inside presence they wanted against the all-Filipino Red Warriors crew.
“Alfred was there when we needed him the most,” beamed NU coach Eric Altamirano of their prized Cameroonian ace, who helped the Bulldogs reach the Promised Land in 2014 when he was also named as the Finals MVP.
Aroga, however, refused to take all the credit, saying he wanted more to see his teammates, notably the new faces, gain confidence which can help them big moving forward.
“My role in the team is not to score. I’m one of the leaders and I always tell my teammates that ‘I want you guys to shine,” he said. “And for them to shine, we have set them up to score. So I was just really lucky to have all these baskets.”
Aroga made his presence felt despite tweaking his right ankle on his way to the bucket that gave NU a comfortable three-point lead with less than 80 seconds to go.
“I got injured again but it’s not an excuse,” he said. “We’re thankful that we got the win. I’m really that we did it.” – By Jerome Lagunzad
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