Jiovani Jalalon left to rue weakened frontline as Chiefs season comes to an end
Jiovani Jalalon battled cramps late in the knockout match against Mapua. Czar Dancel

JIOVANI Jalalon  blamed the absence of a quality big man for Arellano's failure to reach the NCAA Final Four, a year after finishing runner-up to multiple champion San Beda.

Jalalon put up impressive numbers in the knockout game against Mapua on Tuesday, scoring a career-high 37 points to go with seven rebounds, five assists, and the same number of steals.

His heroics, however, couldn't save the Chiefs from absorbing a 75-93 defeat that enabled Mapua to make the Final Four of the country's oldest collegiate league for the first time since 2010.

[See Cardinals back in Final Four]

Jalalon said the absence of a big man that could have contained Mapua rebounding demon Allwell Oraeme spelled the difference in a campaign that saw Chiefs lose the likes of Prince Caperal and John Nard Pinto.

“’Yug big man lang talaga kulang namin. Kahit anong pilit namin ...” said Jalalon. “Big man lang talaga kulang. Siguro makakabawi kami next season.”

The Chiefs trailed by 16 at halftime after a 12-2 Cardinals run in the second period. They cut the gap to single digits but couldn't put enough pressure on Oraeme and the Cardinals.

“Sa dugout pa lang, sinabi ko na kung gusto nating manalo, kailangang makipagpalitan na tayo ng mukha. Tuluy-tuloy na nung simula pero bumigay din,” said Jalalon.

Jalalon has two more years of eligibility left with the Chiefs, although it will be harder to resist the lure of the pro ranks after next season.

As for his immediate future, Jalalon said he will be suiting up for one of the two Racal Motors squads in the Pilipinas Commercial Basketball League (PCBL).

Still, the Gilas Pilipinas cadet member said it will be hard to get over the loss to Mapua.

“Galing kami sa finals tapos bigla kaming bumaba. Masakit din sa amin kasi gusto naming pumasok sa Final Four. Pero wala kaming magagawa,” Jalalon said.

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