(The Philippine Star)

MANILA, Philippines – Jio Jalalon finally hit his stride after a pair of poor games, firing 22 points while Lervin Flores dished out a double-double effort as they power Arellano U to a 92-80 romp over Mapua to clinch the first slot in the NCAA men’s basketball finals at the MOA Arena in Pasay yesterday.

But Perpetual Help kept its title bid going as it stopped San Beda, 87-83, in their side of the Final Four to force a sudden death for the other finals berth on Tuesday.

Jalalon pumped in 10 of his output in the fourth quarter while Flores also finished with 22 points as the Chiefs took control early then kept the Cardinals at bay in the last six minutes to make a return trip to the finals.

“It’s good to be back in the finals,” said Arellano U coach Jerry Codiñera, whose wards reached the finals in 2014.

But with Jalalon, who struggled in the last two games against the Lions, reaching peak form and the rest raring to complete an unfinished business, things are looking up for the Chiefs.

Flores also capped his big game with 10 rebounds and three shot blocks.

Allwell Oraeme, tipped to win his second MVP award, had 20 points and 24 rebounds but the rest of the Cardinals failed to slow down the Chiefs’ superb offensive game.

Earlier, the Altas finally snapped a streak of Final Four setbacks to the Lions as they hacked out a four-point victory to stay in the hunt.

Gab Dagangon drilled in 11 of his career-high 27 points in the fourth quarter as the Altas fended off the Lions repeated rallies to stay in the hunt for a crack at the championship.

It was the Las Piñas-based school’s first semis win over San Beda after losing three straight Final Four face-offs from 2012-14.

The Altas hugged each other and whooped it up on the court at the buzzer as if they had won the championship.

“This win made up for all our past heartaches. It was really a special moment,” said Perpetual Help coach Jimwell Gican. “But we can’t celebrate yet because there is still one game to be won on Tuesday.”

The Altas are also seeking to become the first No. 4 seed to beat the top seed since the Final Four format was introduced in 1998.

Nigerian Bright Akhuetie returned from a team-imposed one-game suspension with 15 points, 11 rebounds and three shot blocks.

The scores:

First Game (Srs)

Perpetual Help 87 – Dagangon 27, Akhuetie 15, Singontiko 15, Hao 8, Ilagan 8, Coronel 6, Pido 6, Sadiwa 2, Eze 0, Gallardo 0, Mangalino 0.

San Beda 83 – Bolick 21, Soberano 16, Noah 14, Potts 12, Mocon 8, Adamos 6, Optana 2, Prebitero 2, Sara 2, Alas 0, Bonsubre 0, Carlos 0, Navarro 0, Tongco 0.

Quarterscores: 21-9, 41-36, 60-62, 87-83

Second Game (Srs)

Second Game

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