MANILA, Philippines -- His block on Kiefer Ravena that sent National University (NU) to the UAAP Season 77 finals remains on Alfred Aroga's mind, nearly six years after the game.
Aroga was the Bulldogs' defensive anchor all throughout the tournament, and he proved why during their Final 4 showdown against Ateneo de Manila University. The Blue Eagles were the top seed and owned a twice-to-beat advantage, but fourth-seeded NU forced a do-or-die game.
And Aroga was the one who ended what had been a dream season for Ravena and the Blue Eagles, when he rejected the Phenom's layup with four seconds left that preserved a 65-63 triumph for the Bulldogs.
"If you see the video, I don't know, for some reason I had this instinct that he would go exactly where he was going," Aroga recalled during a recent episode of "The Prospects" podcast.
"I was following the big man, and I had to push Troy (Rosario) for me to have more balance and go and block Kiefer. So when I had that block, oh my god," he added. "I was so happy, man. I was like, 'Finally, I got that guy'."
For Aroga, the block meant more than just the one stop they needed in order to go to the finals. For him, it was a promise that he fulfilled to himself.
The Cameroonian center remembered arriving in the Philippines in 2012 and watching a UAAP game between NU and Ateneo.
"That was the first time for me to see a basketball game like that, with a lot of fans, TV and everything. I was observing Kiefer the whole time, because I'm a good observer," he said. "He was professional-ready by that time -- the way he was acting, the way he was warming up, the way he was playing."
Aroga would be informed that Ravena, who was a sophomore at the time, was "one of the best players in the country." Ateneo went on to beat NU, and the memory stuck with Aroga.
"I told Luigi (Altamirano, son of NU coach Eric Altamirano), bro, every time I'm gonna play against Ateneo and Kiefer, they're gonna suffer," he said. "I just told him that every time I play against Ateneo and Kiefer, they're gonna feel my presence."
Aroga was true to his word, as he put up 14 points and 12 rebounds in the second game of the Final 4, including the block that sealed the victory.
But he made it clear that he has great respect for Ravena, who won the first of two Most Valuable Player awards that season.
"Playing against you, actually, bro, it was a good test," Aroga told Ravena. "You're this kind of player that we don't stop, we just slow down. We can't stop you, man. So our mantra was, let Kiefer do his game, but the others, we gotta shut them down."
"That's what we did, and that's how we won the game," he added.
NU went on to face Far Eastern University in the finals of Season 77, winning in three games to end a 60-year title drought. Aroga emerged as the Finals MVP, still the only foreign student-athlete to claim the award.
(For more sports coverage, visit the ABS-CBN Sports website).