Needing a win to keep pace with the top of the pack, the Mapua Institute of Technology (MIT) Cardinals had just enough juice to avoid a late-game meltdown at the hands of their Intramuros neighbors, Lyceum or the Philippines University (LPU) Pirates, 109-95, in Season 91 of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament at the FilOil Flying V Arena.
The league’s best offense, Mapua got its clinic going early. With the hot hand of Josan Nimes, energy plays from Allwell Oraeme, and a stifling full-court press, the Season 91 hosts finished the first quarter with a substantial 37-14 lead. Things only got cushier for MIT in the following quarter as the Lyceum Pirates seemingly checked out of the game already. The Cardinals got their lead up to as much as 43, 64-41,midway through the second stanza after CJ Isit found a wide open Serrano for an easy layup. The Cardinals shot a staggering 75% from the field and 66% from the three-point area in the opening half which they ended with a 68-28 advantage.
The Pirates’ fortunes turned in the second half. Sparked by the incindiery play of Shaq Alanes and rookie Jesper Ayaay, Lyceum hacked away at the Mapua advantage, first with a 14-2 blitz highlighted by three treys from Alanes to open the third period. LPU eventually trimmed the lead down to as much as 19, 82-63, with less than a minute left in the third canto after a pair of Alanes charities but the Cardinals managed to maintain a 23-point advantage, 86-63, before the payoff period thanks to baskets from Nimes and Serrano.
In the fourth period, LPU assistant coach, Gary David seemingly lent his fiery hands to Ayaay who sizzled for 11 of his team’s first 16 points. Ayaay’s shooting got Mapau lead down to 16, 95-79 midway through the fourth period. After Oraeme split his charities, LPU rattled off 11 consecutive points off multiple Mapua turnovers that got the Pirates to within seven points, 96-89, with three minutes left in the game. From there, Oraeme and Nimes bailed their team out by answering any further Lyceum assaults. Nimes and Oraeme combined for 11 of Mapua’s last 13 points which mostly came off free throws from LPU’s attempts at stopping the clock. The Mapuans also managed to revitalize their defense just in time to hamper Lyceum to just a single field goal in the closing three minutes to close the match out.
Controversy brewed, however, when Mapua head coach, Atoy Co showed his dismay for several controversial technical foul calls on his players that were trying to draw offensive fouls. Thrice in the match, referees called Mapuans for “faking a foul” which warranted a technical. The calls resulted in the ejection of Andretti Stevens and when Isit was called for a similar infraction in the last two minutes of the game, Co lost his marbles. The PBA legend took his shirt off and waived it to the crowd. Referees then tossed the disgruntled head coach and awarded Lyceum multiple charities and ball possession. Luckily for Co, his antics did not cost his team the game.
Josan Nimes called the second half of this game as the scariest he’s ever in. “That was probably the scariest second half I have been in,” the fourth year forward said. He added that they “were turning the ball over and we weren’t playing any defense.”
Coach Atoy Co was repentant on the actions he displayed. He told us that he was just frustrated with some non-calls against them. About the game, he said that he was disappointed with the boys. “I thought that we could reach the Final Four with our first half performance. But in the second half, we played terrible,” the PBA legend said. In addition, he said that the win did not feel like a win.
Leading Mapua to its third win in six games was Allwell Oraeme who dropped 26 points, 20 boards, and five blocks. Team captain, Josan Nimes scored 17 of his season-high 24 points in the first half and added six rebounds and six assists to his final tally.
Lyceum, who dropped to 1-5 this season, pulled stellar performances from Alanes and Ayaay. Shaq dropped 27 points on 50% shooting while Ayaay managed his career-high 22 points.
Mapua will look for its third win in a row when it faces Benilde on Friday, August 7 at 4:00pm while Lyceum continues its march on Tuesday, August 4 when it tackles Letran at 4:00pm.
MIT (109) – Oraeme 26, Nimes 24, Biteng 12, Isit 9, Raflores 9, Nieles 7, Serrano 6, Aguirre 6, Que 5, Menina 5, Stevens 0, Layug 0.
LPU (95) – Alanes 27, Ayaay 22, Baltazar 14, Nguidjol 8, Lacastesantos 6, Mbida 6, Sunga 3, Soliman 3, Bulawan 3, Gabayni 2, Lugo 2, Malabanan 0, Marata 0, Taladua 0, Elmejrab 0.
Quarterscores: 34-12, 68-28, 85-63, 109-95.