After six seasons, the Mapua Insititute of Technology Cardinals have returned to the NCAA Final Four.
The Cardinals were able to stave-off a late Jio Jalalon and Arellano Chiefs-rally, 93-75, to advance to the next stage of the NCAA Seniors Basketball tournament early Tuesday afternoon at the SM Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City.
Mapua led by an early 12-7 lead as they limited Arellano’s usual fast-paced offense. Allwell Oraeme made his presence felt with already a whopping 10-rebound first quarter as he led his team to a slim 16-15 edge. On the other end, Jiovanni Jalalon scored nine early to pace the Chiefs.
In less than a minute, Arellano took the lead for a brief moment with a 5-0 spurt to open the second quarter. They even managed to extend their advantage to 27-22 with Jalalon adding to his superb first half stint for the Chiefs. However, in the last 7 minutes of the first half, everything went the way of the Cardinals.
CJ Isit started the rampage by scoring six in their 10-0 blast to retake the lead. Their defense was sharp as they piled up the steals that led to easy transition baskets in their favor. Despite having a struggle from the offensive end, Oraeme played the quarterback role as he dished out great outlet passes while others finished the job.
Mapua ended the first half on a 27-6 run with Josan Nimes accounting for nine markers, four baskets of which came from the fast break. Overall, Mapua had 23 points in transition after two quarters.
The teams exchanged for points in the beginning part of the second half. However, another 8-0 run by Mapua anchored by their frontline extended their lead to 62-37. On the other hand, then Chiefs were struggling from the perimeter as they Mapua’s suffocating close outs paved way for their early blank attempts.
Arellano had their final push in the tail-end of the third quarter that carried over to the final quarter as they unleashed a 14-0 run led by their bus driver, Jalalon. Looking composed this time around, Mapua thwarted a potential late-game collapse with Nimes providing the key baskets late. To add to the unfortunate events for the Chiefs, Jalalon cramped up at the 4:34 that halted the momentum gained by his team. The Cardinals maintained the double-digit lead throughout the fourth quarter as big stops in the dying minutes and notwithstanding Jalalon’s hot shooting, led them to their entrance to the Final Four.
“I don’t think it has hit me yet,” King Cardinal Josan Nimes said about finally entering the Final Four. “It’s a great feeling to make a lot of people proud especially the community and all the Mapuans.”
The secret to the huge second round surge by the Cardinals was due to the team not looking at the standings. “We’re peaking at the right time,” he said. “We just focused on our team and not looking at the standings. We know the capabilities of this team.”
For Allwell Oraeme, who notched a monstrous statline of 13 markers, 28 boards, six dimes, and three rejections, he said that it feels good to bring Mapua to the Final Four. “It was a challenge but our mindset is in the Final Four. We achieved our dream.”
Besides Oraeme, Josan Nimes, who was finally free of pain from the hamstring injury he sustained, scored 21 points on 9/14 shooting. The backcourt tandem of CJ Isit and Darell Menina also combined to score 28 points.
For the Chiefs, Jio Jalalon scored a career-high 37 points on 13/23 shooting. He added seven boards, five dimes, and five steals in the loss. He was the only Chief to score in double-figures.
As a team, Mapua shot an outstanding 53% from the field compared to a horrendous 38% for the Chiefs. The Cardinals also outrebounded the Chiefs 51-35.
The Mapua Cardinals move on to a placing match against the JRU Heavy Bombers on Friday, October 16 at 4:00pm. The Arellano Chiefs finished the tournament at fifth place.
MIT (93) – Nimes 21, Isit 14, Menina 14, Oraeme 13, Serrano 10, Brana 10, Aguirre 6, Nieles 5, Que 0.
AU (75) – Jalalon 37, Salado 9, Cadavis 7, Nicholls 6, Meca 4, Bangga 4, Tano 4, Holts 2, Enriquez 2, Ongolo 0, Gumaru 0, Ortega 0, Zamora 0.
Quarterscores: 16-15, 49-33, 69-51, 93-75
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