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Jalalon, Chiefs put Knights on cusp of early axe

By Ricky Manliguis

SAN JUAN, MM--Arellano University is back in the Final Four.

Letran, meanwhile, may be missing it.

With Jio Jalalon in yet another stellar game, the Chiefs dented the defending champions' playoff aspirations with an 83-74 victory in the third and final game of Friday action in Season 92 of the NCAA at the FilOil Flying V Centre.

The Chiefs hung tough despite nearly squandering a 20-point lead in the closing minutes of the match against a game but visibly outdueled Knights squad to book a return trip to the last four while keeping its grasp atop the standings with its 12th triumph against three losses.

Jalalon flirted with a triple-double as the cerebral playmaker scored 22 points, grabbed 14 rebounds, and dished out eight assists in nearly 36 minutes of action.

His backcourt buddy Kent Salado chipped in 12 with nine rebounds, while Donald Gumaru had 10.

Coach Jerry CodiƱera and the rest of the Legarda-based squad had a blistering start, even grabbing a 20-point cushion, 40-20, on a Zach Nicholls trey before settling for the 45-30 halftime advantage.

But the Knights, displaying their championship caliber, refused to die without the fight in the second half. Rey Nambatac and Jom Sollano conspired to bring the team to within seven, 64-71, with 3:32 left in the game.

Jalalon then went down to work, pouring eight of AU's final 12 points en route to victory.

The Chiefs will be back in the Final Four after missing the cut last season via a painful do-or-die defeat to Mapua for the number four spot.

Letran dropped to an even 8-8 card, just behind Mapua (9-5) and Jose Rizal U (9-7) for the race for the last Final Four slot.

Nambatac collected 28 points and 10 rebounds, Sollano finished with 15, and Bong Quinto was the third double-digit scorer with 10.

Box Scores:

Arellano 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

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