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Pingoy, Zaldivar step up as new faces in Adamson’s starting unit

In a long season lined with challenges and obstacles along the way, every member of a team has to step up.

And when coach Franz Pumaren called on the names of Koko Pingoy and Keith Zaldivar in the last two games, the duo, who have come in as reserves for most of the UAAP Season 81 men’s basketball tournament, proved to be up to task.

“You have to rejig sometimes,” he said. “You have to adjust.”

Pingoy, once one of the most highly-touted guards out of high school, started for the first time against NU last week, and though he was scoreless, the burly playmaker had eight assists, four rebounds and a steal.

But against La Salle, Pingoy took it a notch higher, playing leech-like defense on the Archers’ guards while scoring six points, grabbing five rebounds and issuing five assists in the 57-50 win.

None was more important, though, than his three-pointer that gave Adamson a 53-46 lead with 3:26 left. More than two minutes earlier, he dished out the assist that Sean Manganti converted into a three that made it 50-46.

On the other hand, Zaldivar bodied up the Archers’ big men in the first quarter, helping the Falcons hold their opponents to the lowest-scoring period in modern UAAP history.

Pumaren is proud of the two’s recognition of their roles.

“I think they accepted the challenge, which is nice,” he said. “I think everybody, given the opportunity, they will step up.”

Asked whether the two will remain in the starting unit approaching a crucial stretch where Adamson aims to cement a top-two finish, Pumaren doesn’t want to rush his decision.

“We’ll see. Whoever’s playing much better (will get the nod).”

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