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Jalalon’s triple-double pushes Arellano past EAC to clinch playoff spot

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In the midst of a huge Emilio Aguinaldo College rally and with half of the crowd against him, Jiovani Jalalon displayed uncanny composure to notch his fourth career triple-double and lead the Arellano University Chiefs to a 98-90 victory to clinch a playoff spot in the NCAA Season 91 Seniors’ Basketball tournament.

The Emilio Aguinaldo College defense was non existent in the first quarter as the small backcourt of the Generals could not match-up with the duo of Jio Jalalon and Zach Nicholls. The two Chiefs combined for 14 first quarter points. Moreover, Jalalon displayed great floor generalship in assisting in almost all of the made field goals of his teammates in the quarter. The frontline of Sidney Onwubere and Hamadou Laminou though would power their way in the paint resulting to foul trouble for American student athlete Dioncee Holts. Still, the Chiefs held a 26-16 lead to end the opening quarter.

The Arellano offense continued to punish their opponents defense in the first six minutes and 51 seconds of the second quarter. The lead grew to as high as 45-27 behind the outside sniping of Nicholls. Smart Elite ambassador Jalalon continued his dazzling display in accumulating nine assists by then. After a timeout by EAC head coach Andy de Guzman, team leaders Francis Munsayac and Sidney Onwubere then unleashed an 11-6 rally behind triples by Munsayac and aggressiveness by Onwubere in the paint. Even with Arellano shooting 54% from the field at the half, the General were able to slice the lead to 14, 52-38, entering the second half.

The Legarda-based squad were forced to shoot from the outside in the early parts of the third quarter. Unfortunately for them, their shots did not fall that resulted to easy fastbreak layups for the Chiefs. The lead grew to a game-high 20 points, 68-48, with 4:53 remaining in the quarter. After a timeout, Sidney Onwubere, playing for nothing but school pride, drove recklessly through the lanes to lead his team in a 13-6 blast. Onwubere scored seven in the rally, with three coming from the charity stripe, while Mejos knocked down a three-pointer and an and-one to cut the Arellano lead to a manageable 72-61 margin.

Absolutely no defense was played in the first five minutes of the final stanza as the two teams exchanged baskets with Arellano still maintaining a ten-point, 85-75, lead until the 5:46 mark. Jalalon’s offense was in full display during that span with him scoring five in that span and notching his tenth assist in an alley-oop play with Salado. The Arellano defense though stagnated afterwards as the playoff-chasers could not defend the three-point arc. Jozhua General exploited this in knocking down a three-pointer and was fouled beyond-the-arc for two free throws. Moreover, Onwubere continued his act while a pullup jumper by Munsayac cut the lead to just three, 89-86, with 3:36 remaining.

To stop the bleeding, Jalalon took the initiative to halt the EAC momentum in scoring from two Salado finds to him to extend the lead once more to seven. The San Beda crowd though continuously jeered the Arellano squad and cheer for their Mendiola neighbors that inspired the Generals. The Arellano frontline could not grab a rebound from misses as Laminou grabbed offensive rebounds with ease resulting to putbacks while a Munsayac find to Onwubere on the break cut the lead to just three once more, 93-90, with 53 ticks to go. After a rebound off an EAC miss notched Jalalon’s fourth triple-double, Munsayac fouled Jalalon that brought them to the penalty. Fortunately for the Chiefs, as Jalalon missed two crucial free throws, a double-lane violation was called that favored Arellano. A fadeaway by Jalalon extended the lead. On the defensive end, a steal from two inbound passes from EAC resulted to conversions for him as well. Jalalon scored the last nine points for his squad to lead them to a 98-90 win.

“Laking ginhawa na nanalo kami,” said Arellano head coach Jerry Condinera after the game. However, the team was rattled after knowing that they needed to win by 25 points to be ranked high in the playoff seeding according to the PBA legend. “Sabi ng isang AU staff sa amin, to avoid complications, we needed to win by 25. Na off-track kami dun. Nawala kami sa rhythm dahil may hinahabol pa pala na points.”

For Jalalon, he admitted that he was nervous as Emilio Aguinaldo was making their run. “Kinakabahan na ko. Pag natalo pa kami, mawala pa kami sa Final Four. Yun dumepensa kami ng maayos kaya nakabawi nung huli.”

Jio Jalalon notched his fourth triple-double of the season with 31 points, ten boards, and ten dimes. He also had an excellent shooting performance in shooting 12/17 from the field. Zach Nicholls complemented the Jalalon masterpiece with 15 points, 12 coming from downtown.

For the hapless Generals, Sidney Onwubere topscored with 24 points and added nine boards. Hamadou Laminou had a 20-20 outing as well with 20 points and 23 boards.

As a team, the Chiefs shot an outstanding 49% from the field compared to the Generals’ 38%. The Legarda cagers though outrebounded their opponents 53-46 resulting to 21 second chance points.

The Arellano Chiefs, with a 12-6 slate, are now locked for a playoff spot. The EAC Generals (2-15), who are in a midst of a ten-game losing streak, will try to spoil the party as they face the Mapua Cardinals on Friday, October 9 at 2:00pm.

The Scores:
AU (98) – Jalalon 31, Nicholls 15 , Enriquez 11, Salado 11, Gumaru 8, Meca 7, Holts 4, Cadavis 4, De Guzman 3, Bangga 2, Tano 2, Ongolo-ongolo 0, Ortega 0, Zamora 0.
EAC (90) – Onwubere 24, Laminou 20, Munsayac 15, Mejos 13, General 8, Bonleon 5, Diego 5, Pascual 0, Corilla 0, Estacio 0.
Quarterscores: 26-16, 52-38, 74-61, 98-90.

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