THE start of the post-Jiovani Jalalon era looked good for Arellano as it outlasted Mapua, 91-82, in the NCAA Season 93 opener on Saturday at the Mall of Asia Arena.
Kent Salado took over the reins for the Chiefs, delivering 24 points, seven rebounds and four assists in upending the gritty Cardinals, who played their first game without two-time Most Valuable Player Allwell Oraeme.
The Chiefs relied on defense in the end game as they held the Cardinals scoreless for a near seven-minute spell to turn a precarious 80-79 lead to a commanding 91-79 before the game ended.
“Napakatamis ng panalo. Hirap kunin ng first game, may jitters lahat, kasi halos lahat bago pa,” said Arellano coach Jerry Codinera.
“Siyempre, bago ka, chemistry ayun. Iba parin talaga pag NCAA e. Everything counts, they can feel the pressure,” he added.
It was a tight battle from the start between two new-look teams as the match had seven deadlocks and 18 lead changes, with the Chiefs taking control only in the fourth.
After allowing the Cardinals to score at least 23 points in the first three quarters, the Chiefs limited the Cardinals to just 11 late to eke out an impressive opening day win.
Sophomore forward Michael Canete added 17 points and hauled down 12 rebounds to backstop Salado’s efforts, Bryle Mecca chipped in nine while Allen Enriquez and newcomer Levi de la Cruz added eight apiece.
“Talagang kung si Salado lang hindi naman talaga namin kakayanin. So we need to have productions from out second unit,” Codinera continued.
Laurenz Victoria led the Cardinals with 23 points and five rebouds while Andoy Estrella added 19 points, nine rebounds and five assists. However, the two combined for 13 of their 25 turnovers which the Chiefs turned to 18 points.
Arellano 91 - Salado 24, Cañete 17, Meca 9, Dela Cruz 8, Enriquez 8, Villoria 7, Flores 5, Nicholls 5, Abanes 3, Alcoriza 3, Concepcion 2, Ongolo Ongolo 0, Padilla 0.
Mapua 82 - Victoria 23, Estrella 19, Orquina 9, Aguirre 8, Nieles 8, Raflores 8, Pelayo 7, Buñag 0.
Quarterscores: 19-23; 44-46; 72-71; 91-82.