By Michael Angelo S. Murillo
THE Emilio Aguinaldo College Generals notched their second back-to-back wins in Season 94 of the National Collegiate Athletic Association after beating the Arellano Chiefs, 78-70, on Tuesday at the FilOil Flying V Centre that also ended the playoff hopes of the latter.
While already eliminated from the playoff race, EAC (4-11) showed much competitiveness, using a strong start against Arellano (4-10) and hanging tough in the end to win two in a row while also pulling down the Chiefs from the Final Four race.
The Generals went for an early pullaway led by Jerome Garcia and JP Maguliano, outscoring the Chiefs, 11-2, in the first three and a half minutes of the opening quarter.
Arellano’s backcourt of Levi Dela Cruz and Ian Alban tried to rally the Chiefs only to have limited success as they went trailing, 21-11, after the first 10 minutes of the contest.
EAC picked up where it left off in the first canto to start the second frame, led anew by the hot-shooting Garcia.
The Generals fired from all cylinders as they continued to hold the Chiefs at bay and extended their lead to 18 points, 48-30, by the halftime break.
In the third period, Arellano came out with more aggressiveness on both ends of the court, going on a 9-6 run to cut into the lead of EAC, 54-39, midway into the quarter.
Michael Canete and Archie Concepcion towed the Chiefs even closer to 12 points, 58-46, with less than two minutes to go.
The Generals eventually survived the Arellano charge back to carry a 13-point cushion, 63-50, heading into the payoff quarter.
Undeterred by the constant fending-off by EAC, the Chiefs continued to claw their way back to begin the final canto.
Dela Cruz and Canete thrust their team to within five points, 64-59, with 4:34 left on the clock.
Two free throws by EAC big man Hamadou Laminou stopped the bleeding for the Generals only to be answered by a drive from Alban with 3:37 to go to keep Arellano within striking distance, 66-61.
Laminou though would use his height advantage over his defenders to power his team to a 72-63 lead with two minutes remaining.
The Chiefs made a last-ditch effort to salvage the victory to come within six points, 76-70, with 27 seconds left but that was the closest they would get as they slumped to the defeat and kissed their playoff hopes goodbye.
Garcia led EAC with 25 points to go along with six rebounds and six assists followed by Maguliano with 15 points and 10 boards.
Laminou finished with 14 points, seven rebounds and three blocks for the Generals, who defeated the College of St. Benilde Blazers in their previous game.
Dela Cruz, meanwhile, paced the Chiefs with 15 points while Alban added 14.
Guilmer Dela Torre had 12 and Concepcion 10 for Arellano, which needed to win to say in the playoff hunt.
“We sort of collapsed in the fourth period as we became complacent with the big lead. But we told each other not to panic and thankfully we hang on for the win,” said Garcia, named player of the game, after their victory.
EAC next plays on Oct. 5 against the Mapua Cardinals while Arellano faces off with the Jose Rizal University Heavy Bombers on the same day.