JIO Jalalon took matters into his own hands in the homestretch as Arellano University cruised past Mapua, 92-80, to clinch the first finals berth in the 92nd NCAA basketball tournament at the Mall of Asia Arena on Friday.
When the Cardinals were threatening to mount a comeback, Jalalon scored 10 straight points inside the final five minutes to push the lead back to double digits, 89-78, with 1:12 to go.
Dioncee Holts put the icing on the victory cake with a booming triple with 29.5 remaining.
Jalalon battered Mapua on all fronts, scoring 22 points to go with eight rebounds, nine assists, and three steals.
Lervin Flores also had a huge outing with a career-high 22 points, 10 rebounds, and three blocks, while Kent Salado added 13 markers and nine rebounds.
Arellano will face the winner between San Beda and Perpetual, who will play in a do-or-die match on Tuesday.
"Hindi mo ma-predict kung sino ang dominating sa first three quarters. They (Mapua) were there," said Arellano coach Jerry Codinera.
Allwell Oraeme put up a monstrous effort of 20 points, 24 rebounds, and four blocks but in a losing cause for Mapua.
Andoy Estrella had 15, while CJ Isit banged in 14 before being escorted to the dugout at the end of the third quarter with a bloodied eye.
Isit was decked after being on the receiving end of Holts' right hand in loose ball scramble in the waning seconds of the penultimate quarter.
ARELLANO 92 – Jalalon 22, Flores 22, Salado 13, Gumaru 10, Meca 5, Nicholls 5, Cadavis 4, Villoria 4, Holts 3, Enriquez 2, Aguilar 2, Gupilan 0
MAPUA 80 – Oraeme 20, Estrella 15, Isit 14, Eriobu 11, Raflores 7, Menina 6, Orquina 4, Victoria 2, Biteng 0, Bunag 0, Aguirre 0
Quarterscores: 27-18, 49-42, 69-57, 92-80