Birthday boy Donald Gumaru exploded just in time, helping Arellano U pull away from Mapua in the stretch for a 95-82 victory as the Chiefs secure the twice-to-beat edge for the Final Four of the 92nd NCAA seniors basketball at The Arena in San Juan City.
Virtually absent in the first half, Gumaru stepped out of the shadows of his more heralded teammates, led by star guard Jiovani Jalalon in the second half.
He fired away five triples, three of the, coming in the fourth that ignited a 21-7 closeout and leaving the Cardinals stunned.
The 5-foot-10 Jalalon sizzled with a personal season-high of 35 points on top of five rebounds, as many steals and assists. But it was Gumaru who shone the brightest on his 24th birthday, enabling Arellano U to notch its fourth straight win and 14th overall in 17 matches, tightening its grip on the No. 1 spot.
“Siyempre ang laking advantage ‘yun sa team. It’s also a morale-boosting (victory) going to the playoffs,” beamed Arellano U coach Jerry Codiñera, pleased with how the Chiefs recovered their bearings after blowing a 10-point lead in the second half.
Skipper CJ Isit tallied a team-high 25 points, 14 of them coming in the second half, where he helped the Cardinals stay in the thick of the fight while gaining a slim 75-74 lead with more than six minutes to play.
Gumaru, however, had other things in mind as he nailed back-to-back triples, sparking a decisive 13-to-nothing run that allowed the Chiefs to retake control for good.
Also going down the drain with the Cardinals’ sixth loss against 11 wins was the 13-point, 20-rebound performance by reigning league MVP Allwell Oraeme. – Jerome Lagunzad
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ARELLANO 95 – Jalalon 35, Salado 15, Gumaru 15, Cadavis 7, Flores 6, Canete 5, Enriquez 4, Nicholls 3, Meca 3, Villoria 2, Holts 0, Aguilar 0
MAPUA 82 – Isit 25, Menina 16, Oraeme 13, Eriobu 8, Orquina 7, Raflores 6, Estrella 3, Aguirre 2, Serrano 2, Victoria 0, Bunag 0
Quarterscores: 16-13, 45-35, 67-63, 95-82.