Squandering a seemingly-comfortable lead built in the first half, the Arellano Chiefs survived a tremendous Lyceum Pirates’ fourth quarter run and win their first game of the NCAA tournament, 80-78 in Friday’s triple-header held at the FilOil Arena in San Juan City.
Running in transition was the name of the game for Arenallo in the match as their fast break game powered them to an early lead against LPU. Early turnovers made the Pirates enabled Brylle Meca to drain the game’s first shot from downtown and give the Chiefs a 7-3 lead. As the teams get sloppy in the ensuing possessions, 4 lead changes and two deadlocks were formed halfway in the first period.
Tied at 13 after two free throws by Jean Nguidjol, Arellano bursted a 14-4 spark to end the first ten minutes of action. During the stretch, the Pirates’ offense was scattered with the way Arellano defending the passing lanes. Jiovani Jalalon also scored six points in the run while Zac Nichols punched in a triple to help their team build a double-digit lead after the first quarter.
Joseph Gabayani played a good second period as he scored Lyceum’s first eight points of the period. However, his team failed to make successive stops on the other end with Arellano still answering on buckets made by the Pirates. Nichols also started to catch fire from three-point territory as he inked in two more and surpassing his subpar 1/11 shooting in their last outing against JRU.
Arellano built its largest lead of the half at 41-23 while the reinsertion of Jalalon started the running game again of the Chiefs. A mini 7-2 spurt put up by Lyceum including a transition three by rookie Noah Lugo trimmed the lead down to 13. Unfortunately for the Pirates, they were on a losing end of a counter run as six more fastbreak points gave the Chiefs a 16-pt cushion after 20 minutes.
For majority of the third quarter, Arellano maintained its double-digit edge despite Jalalon cramping up in the 4:26 mark of the third while his team was still up, 63-49. This enabled the Pirates to double the output of Arellano in the last four minutes, 10-5 including timely free throws that trimmed the lead down to nine heading into the last quarter, 59-68.
Two outside jumpers by Dioncee Holts restored Arellano’s double-digit gap as the Pirates seemed to have a tough time to break the nine-point barrier in the first three minutes of the last quarter. However, Gabayani was still muscling his presence inside while Nichols knocked down another three-ball to trigger their late-game rally. The rookie MJ Ayaay also played a huge fourth period as him and a free throw by Gabayani scored and pulled through within six at 78-72 with exactly three minutes to play.
Looking to close their opponents, Jalalon stepped up and hit a tough floater to give Arellano some sorts of breathing room down the stretch. However, one last run by the Pirates made it a close encounter with Ayaay and Shaq Alanes converting on a tough transition layup to make it 80-76 with a over sixty seconds to play. Afterwards, Lyceum got a stop that led to another Gabayani basket underneath in a 2-for-1 play. Another stop the Pirates off a missed shot by Arellano gave them a crack to win the game with 3.4 seconds left. Unfortunately, Gabayani lost the ball after a good play as the Pirates were unable to pull off even an attempt to tie the game in regulation.
After the game, Arellano head coach Jerry Condinera was relieved that the Chiefs were able to hold on to the huge lead they had in the first half of the game. “Buti na-sustain up to that last second. Lyceum was there, they were breathing down our necks.” He added that it was tough for him since there are a lot of new rookies in the team. Finally, the Defense Minister credited the great play of his rookies, especially Michael Salado and Brylle Meca, “they are really impressive.”
Gilas Cadet member Jiovani Jalalon scored 20 points and dished out 12 dimes in the win. Sharpshooter Zachary Nicholls punched in 16 markers as well, including five from downtown. For the Pirates, big man Joseph Gabayni put up a monster performance with 20 points and grabbing 18 rebounds while fourth year guard Shaq Alanes continued his hot start with 20 points and five rebounds.
Arellano improves to a 1-1 slate while LPU drops to 0-2 start to the season. Lyceum’s next game will be up against Emilio Aguinaldo College, 2pm on July 9. On the other hand, Arellano will face St Benilde next week Friday at 4pm.
AU (80) – Jalalon 20, Nicholls 16, Salado 10, Meca 8, Enriquez 6, Cadavis 6, Tano 4, Bangga 4, Holts 4, Ortega 2, Baltazar 0, Soliman 0, Malabanan 0
LPU (78) – Gabayni 20, Alanes 20, Ayaay 10. Nguidjol 8, Lacastesantos 6, Mbida 5, Lugo 3, Bulawan 2, Marata 2, Enriquez 0, Zamora 0, Capara 0, Ongolo 0
Quarters: 29-17, 51-35, 68-59, 80-78