AS the final buzzer sounded, Arellano coach Jerry Codiñera was so ecstatic that he tried to reach the rim in front of their bench, as if attempting a slam dunk.
The 47-year-old mentor’s fingers barely grazed the 10-foot ring, but it hardly mattered as the Chiefs survived Letran, 63-62, on Monday in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament at The Arena in San Juan.
“Force of habit lang,” the former PBA great said of his gesture, showing his relief that the Chiefs pulled off an escape against the Knights after putting up a solid defensive stop in their opponents’ final offensive play.
As a result, the Chiefs returned to the winning track and notched a sixth victory in eight games to move a half game behind league-leading San Beda.
Keith Agovida was in the right place at the right time to score the key baskets in the fourth period for the Chiefs, who prevented the Knights from putting up a winning streak, dealing their victimzs their fifth loss in seven games to remain in eighth spot.
The Chiefs prevailed despite Jiovani Jalalon riding the bench most of the payoff payoff period when the emerging star guard fouled out with still a little over six minutes left after picking up two straight fouls—one a personal and the other a technical for resentment to the first infraction.
Before fouling out, Jalalon buried a triple that gave the Chiefs a 57-49 lead.
Overall, Jalalon still managed to produce an all-around performance, tallying 13 points, nine boards, six assists, two steals, and one block in just 22 minutes as the speedy playmaker was at the front of the Chiefs’ suffocating defense that allowed them to claw back from an early deficit.
It was a change in ploy for the Chiefs, who had been defeating foes with their high-octane offense, coming in averaging a league-best 87.6 points per game.
“Nawala kami ng konti sa (offensive) execution, but we had to balance yung depensa, kasi nung bandang huli, nababasa na rin nila kami,” said Codiñera, known as the Defense Minister during his playing days.
The Chiefs showed they can play defense too, forcing the Knights to 23 turnovers.
The Knights did make up for their lack of height with their heart as they surprisingly outrebounded the taller Chiefs by a whopping 20 boards, 63-43, which helped them gain the lead for three quarters.
AU 63 – Agovida 14, Jalalon 13, Pinto 9, Holts 9, Enriquez 8, Nicholls 3, Gumaru 2, Palma 2, Caperal 2, Hernandez 1, Salcedo 0, Ciriacruz 0, Bangga 0, Ortega 0
CSJL 62 – Racal 14, Cruz 12, Nambatac 9, Ruaya 8, Publico 7, Dela Peña 4, Castro 3, Gabawan 3, Singontiko 2, Calvo 0, Tambeling 0, Apreku 0, Quinto 0
Quarterscores: 8-16, 31-34, 48-49, 63-62