Arellano U finally solved defending champion Letran’s perplexing puzzle and in the process, the Chiefs earned themselves a fitting bonus.
With star playmaker Jiovani Jalalon doing what he does best, Arellano U got back at Letran on Friday night, 83-74 to claim the second Final Four berth in the 92nd NCAA seniors basketball tournament at The Arena in San Juan City.
After getting on the short end of their three previous matches, including a 79-89 setback in their first-round meeting last July 14, the Chiefs finally found a way to overcome the Knights with the 5-foot-10 Jalalon turning out to be the key, leading to their 12th straight victory in 15 matches.
“Sobra yung effort. Every game halos close game palagi kaya masaya ako na nakuha na namin,” beamed Arellano U coach Jerry Codiñera.
Jalalon came up with a near triple-double performance of 22 points, 14 rebounds and eight assists while serving as the catalyst in the Chiefs’ ferocious start that enabled them to lead by as many as 20 markers before helping them fend off the Knights’ expected fightback in the final frame.
Jalalon’s backcourt partner, Kent Salado, tallied 12 markers and nine rebounds while American center Dioncee Holts provided the needed inside presence by hauling down a game-high 19 rebounds on top of eight points as the Chiefs returned to the semis after missing the trip last year.
Star wingman Rey Nambatac led all scorers with 28 points and teamed up with the likes of Jom Sollano and Jerrick Balanza in the Knights’ last-ditch rally where they came the closest at six inside the final minute.
But the Chiefs, however, won’t be denied as they dealt the Knights another tough blow, with their rivals dropping to an even 8-8 mark, moving on the verge of seeing their title reign come to an early end.
Making matters worse for Letran was the injury by forward Bong Quinto, who suffered an apparent right ankle sprain in the crunch. – Jerome Lagunzad
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Arellano U (83) – Jalalon 22, Salado 12, Gumaru 10, Cadavis 8, Holts 8, Nichols 8, Meca 7, Flores 6, Villoria 2, Aguilar 0, Enriquez 0, Gupilan 0
Letran (74) – Nambatac 28, Sollano 15, Quinto 10, Balanza 9, Calvo 7, Luib 3, Apreku 2, Ambohot 0, Balagasay 0, Bernabe 0, dela Pena 0
Quarterscores: 20-10; 45-30; 65-53; 83-74.