Both the Heavy Bombers and the Cardinals endured a long path to enter the NCAA Final Four .
In a placing game between both squads, both team went all out in a nit-and-grit game. In the end, the game went the way of the Mapua Institute of Technology Cardinals as they gained third place in the standings after defeating the Jose Rizal University Heavy Bombers, 81-76, at the SM Mall of Asia Arena.
Mapua put up an initial 10-2 run after Tey Teodoro’s first three points to the match. Allwell Oraeme was a presence underneath as he took care for early boards to dictate the pace for the Cardinals. CJ Isit scored 11 points in the opening quarter as the tightly-contested first frame features three more lead changes in its last minutes. Shane Menina denied the passing lanes and give Mapua a buzzer-beating floater in the last possession to give his squad a three point edge.
The teams exchanged good amount of points to start the back-and-forth second quarter as the Cardinals maintained its hold to the lead. Afterwards, Exe Biteng drilled in two huge threes to create a bit of separation 35-27. However, Mapua was limited of attempts to push their lead further due to the number of turnovers they committed. JRU managed to slice the deficit again to single possession, but Isit inked a three to cap a 38-32 half still in favor of Mapua.
Despite struggling in the latter part of the first half, Teodoro ignited a 11-0 run in the opening moments of the second half to help the Heavy Bombers take a 44-42 lead. The intensity-filled period took place due to blow by blow baskets done by both teams. After three more deadlocks in the last minutes, Oraeme threw an outlet pass that was successfully converted by Isit to once again score before the buzzer and give Mapua a slim lead heading into the final frame of play.
For the entire fourth period, JRU was knocking on the door against MIT. After the Heavy Bombers denied the bigs of the Cardinals, their transition game took effect as they pull through within 73-72 after a tough fast break layup by Teodoro.
Big basket after big basket, Oraeme then scored the game’s next three points to put up a bit of distance but was quickly answered by a teardrop by Balagtas. With less than a minute to play and off a timeout, a good drive and dish play by Josan Nimes located a set CJ Isit, who delivered the game-sealing corner long two pointer. The Bombers had a chance but committed a turnover late while free throws sealed the third spot for Mapua.
“Out team responded well [to our coach],” best player of the game CJ Isit said about his team in this game. “We came out with intensity from end to end.”
“Pretty much we thought of positive things all throughout the game,” the Fil-Canadian added. “But I can’t be satisfied. We are peaking as a team and the long road will work to our advantage.”
Isit had a career-high of 27 points on an excellent 12 of 19 clip. He also showed his all-around game in successfully pickpocketing the ball five times. Leading MVP candidate Allwell Oraeme added 11 points and 24 boards.
For the Heavy Bombers, Smart Elite ambassador Tey Teodoro had 16 points but was just 6/22 from the field. Marco Balagtas added 12.
As a team, the Cardinals shot 44% from the field compared to just 37% from the field. Even if the Heavy Bombers outrebounded the Cardinals 51-41, the hosts were able to score 15 second chance points, seven more than JRU.
With the placing now intact, the Mapua Cardinals have the Letran Knights as their playoff assignment while the JRU Heavy Bombers will face the top-seeded San Beda Red Lions. The former will be played at 2:00pm while the latter will follow. Both games will be played on Tuesday, October 20 at the SM Mall of Asia Arena.
MIT (81) – Isit 27, Menina 16, Oraeme 11, Biteng 8, Nieles 8, Serrano 8, Nimes 3, Aguirre 0, Brana 0.
JRU (76) – Teodoro 16, Balagtas 12, Grospe 8, Poutouochi 7, Estrella 7, Lasquety 6, Dela Paz 6, Dela Virgen 5, Cruz 3, Pontejos 2, Sanchez 2, Abdulwahab 0.
Quarterscores: 18-15, 38-32, 56-54, 81-76
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