This appears in philstar.com
Jiovani Jalalon: A flash of lightning; a flash of brilliance.
The Arellano Chiefs' scintillating point guard leads his team past a very good San Beda team to the semifinals of the Filoil Flying v Premier Cup. And he hopes. Beyond.
by rick olivares pic by arvin lim
The man with the college game’s craziest handles showed why he has been on the national team for two years now. In the win-or-go-home quarterfinals against San Beda, the Arellano Chiefs’ Jiovani Jalalon once more turned the Filoil Flying V Centre into his own personal playground.
With the Red Lions defense swarming all over him, he threading the needle with a zip pass to an unmarked Julius Cadavis inside the paint. Bucket.
There he was throwing a no-look behind the back bounce pass to a cutting Dioncee Holts down the baseline. Lay-up.
With the Chiefs spotting the Red Lions a two-point lead, 71-69, time down to a little over four minutes to play, he drove right, bumped Joe Presbitero creating space. San Beda center Donald Tankoua closed down the lane to prevent a drive as Presbitero recovered and moved in to spring the trap. With three defenders on him, someone was free and Jalalon found Holts once more running down the middle of the lane unmolested like it was drive through on a Sunday. Twinner.
As the seconds were ticking away like quicksilver on San Beda’s semi-finals hopes, San Beda sniper AC Soberano, who prior to this match hit 29-48 triples (64%), found himself in the left corner pocket. Chiefs’ guard Kent Salado ran out to him forcing him to drive down the baseline. Jalalon anticipated it and cut his path. Soberano, who missed all six of his attempts with the stifling defense applied on him, passed the ball out to his teammate JV Mocon. Except Mocon collided with Arellano’s Zach Nicholls. With both sprawled on the floor the ball sailed into the Arellano backcourt.
Incredibly, Jalalon who was by the baseline was the first man to the ball in his own backcourt and he scooted in for a layup. 81-74 for the Chiefs with 43 seconds left to play.
San Beda made one last ditch rally behind center Donald Tankoua. But his five points, San Beda’s last for the game, were matched by five Jalalon free throws.
Now Arellano, 86-79, winners were off to the semi-finals while San Beda was left to ponder a pre-season tourney gone awry.
Jalalon finished with a near quadruple double - 21 points, 8 rebounds, 10 assists, and 5 steals — and was named the game’s Best Player.
In the media room post-match, Arellano head coach Jerry Codinera, compared his prized point guard’s heroics, impact, talent, and potential to some of his former teammates in the pros and the national team such as Dindo Pumaren, Ronnie Magsanoc, Gerry Esplana, Hector Calma, and Willie Generalao to name a select few. “Not many players can take over a game and have a tremendous impact on its result,” gushed Codinera who himself has played with a lot of terrific players in his bemedalled career. "He is my extension on the floor. He can feel the game. And with his maturity, he is like a coach on the floor."
When Jiovani Jalalon first came to Arellano University, he played behind John Pinto and Isiah Ciriacruz. He had blinding speed but was turnover prone. When the Chiefs made the NCAA Finals years two seasons ago, he had improved his game. But both Pinto and Jalalon were held to a combined nine points in the second finals game that ended with a San Beda sweep and their fifth straight NCAA title.
“Masaya kami na nakaabot kami sa finals pero masakit rin kasi para kaming no match sa San Beda,” thought Jalalon of that finals loss.
The next season, the NCAA’s 91st, Arellano finished with a 12-6 record, the same record as Mapua and Jose Rizal University. The Chiefs were eliminated via the quotient system.
“Syempre, gusto namin makabalik sa finals at manalo. Pero hindi ganun kadali.”
Despite beating the Red Lions twice in last year’s NCAA elimination round and in this Filoil tourney, Codinera and Jalalon are wary of saying they now have SBC’s number.
“One thing at a time,” cautioned Codinera. “This tournament (Filoil) first the we worry about the NCAAs later."
As Codinera made his way to the his team’s locker room, he paused to think about his prized player’s brilliance. “Just when you think you’ve seen it all, there’s something new. As a coach, he is not only very coachable but fun to watch. Minsan napapatingin ako sa mga assistant coaches ko with yung look na, ‘nakita mo yun?’ And I have the best seat in the house."