It all starts with a sense of urgency.
A sense of urgency is what drives people to perform beyond the norm, to push the boundaries of human capabilities. It makes them work like there’s no tomorrow.
Tuesday afternoon, there was no tomorrow for Jio Jalalon and the Arellano University Chiefs. After 18 elimination round games, it all boiled down to one game. It was do-or-die for last season’s runner-up as they faced the season hosts.
Jio Jalalon was coined the moniker “the Bus Driver” for one reason – he has been carrying the entire Arellano Chiefs squad on his back. They live and die with the Smart Elite ambassador.
After winning the Most Improved Player plum last season, Jalalon has upped the ante in posting norms of 18.83 points (2nd), 6.94 rebounds, 9.61 assists (1st), and 2.44 steals (1st) in 32.11 minutes. Moreover, the Chiefs finished the elimination round with a 12-6 slate in the stacked tournament.
Last Tuesday, Jio Jalalon showed up, his frontline fell apart.
The Mapua Cardinals blitzed the Arellano University Chiefs in the first half in scoring 13 fastbreak points, with Josan Nimes leading the way with nine points. Allwell Oraeme, even in scoring just two points in the half, had already amassed 14 rebounds during that frame as well. This lead to a 49-33 deficit for the Chiefs with Jalalon scoring 15 of the 33 Arellano points.
“Kanina talaga sa halftime, nung nasa dugout pa lang kami, sinabi ko na sa kanila na ‘kung gusto talaga namin manalo, makipagpalitan na lang tayo ng mukha,'” Jalalon recalled as he pleaded to his teammates to show up. He even challenged his seniors like Nicholle Bangga and Allen Enriquez to step-up, “Ayun nga sabi ko sa kanila kahit patapos na yung season namin dapat magpapakita talaga sila kung gusto talaga nila.”
The Chiefs rallied back to start the final quarter in a 20-7 blast that cut the Mapua lead to just 11, 73-62, with 6:44 to go. Jalalon was all over the court during that rally in rebounding, defending, assisting, and scoring – the Smart Elite ambassador scored 11 points in the rally, including two triples. However, according to Jalalon, “Yun yung pagsimula [ng fourth quarter] kala ko tuloy-tuloy na, bumaba pa ng eleven [Mapua’s lead]. Pero nung bumaba ng eleven, biglang bumitaw mga big men namin.”
To make matter worse for the Chiefs, fatigue had set in for the Cagayan de Oro-native. At the 4:34 mark of the game and after draining a three-pointer, Jalalon’s right foot cramped up. With the floor general off the court, the Cardinals extended the lead once more to 15, 82-67. Even with the game almost out-of-reach, Jalalon, being a true warrior, returned to the court after just two minutes of rest. The lead was insurmountable though as the hosts eliminated the Chiefs.
“Masakit talaga kasi gustong gusto namin pumasok sa Final Four talaga. Ayun e. Wala talaga magagawa talo talaga,” a visibly disappointed Jalalon said about what just happened. “Sama e. Sa dulo pa kami natalo. Last year nag-finals kami tapos this year hindi namin nakuha target namin.”
The Smart Elite ambassador finished the game with a career-high 37 points, led the team in rebounding with seven, dished out five dimes and successfully pick-pocketed the ball five times. However, as a team they were outrebounded by a huge margin, 51-35. The entire Arellano frontline combined for just 19 points on a horrendous 9 of 24 shooting and just 23 boards.
“Sa big man talaga. Kasi kahit anong pilit namin, okay namin kasi sa mga guards, big man lang talaga,” Jalalon, who was lost for words, assessed. “Bumitaw lang talaga mga big man namin kasi nandiyan si [Allwell] Oraeme.”
The Arellano coaching staff even remarked that, “Wala parang last na narinig ko lang sa mga coaches ko na parang ako lang naglalaro. Sabi nga nila ‘wala naman ako magagawa kasi nagkaganun talaga yung team ko,’” according to Jalalon.
After a disappointing ending to his Season 91 campaign, the Arellano Head Chief is hoping that the school’s officials address the team’s frontline problems. “Next season, makakabawi naman talaga kasi may paghahandaan kami,” he vowed.
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