Former University of Cebu Junior Webmaster, Darell Menina has been one of the top rookies in this year’s stacked NCAA rookie class.
As the Cardinals fell to a dim losing streak, so too were their rotation. One by one the team’s veterans succumbed to injuries, as a recurring injury to Andretti Stevens, a freak accident to CJ Isit, and a nagging hamstring injury to Josan Nimes hampered the team’s growth.
Fortunately for the Mapua faithful, their rookie class more than stepped-up for the team in the second round of the tournament. Together with fellow Mapua rookies, Allwell Oraeme and Darell Menina, the troika led the Cardinals to a second round resurgence that led them to a six-game winning streak, and more importantly, a chance to gain a Final Four spot. All the while, Menina increased his production 6.44 points/game and 0.77 threes/outing on 14.33 minutes of play to 7.69 points and 1.31 threes on 16.31 minutes of action.
“We will not be here right now without them,” said senior Josan Nimes about how proud he is of their rookies.
Last September 25, the Cardinals figured in a much-hyped tilt against the San Beda Red Lions. However, the Mapuans fell flat in the first half as the defending champions ran them out of the Arena. The Mendiola-based squad led 23-12 to end the first quarter and were up by 15 entering halftime, 41-26.
“Follow the system, follow lang the system and do our best,” Darell Menina said about the pep talk coach Atoy Co and Assistant Coach Ed Cordero during the interval.
With the Mapua faithful still cheering them on, the Cardinals came roaring back in the third canto that cut the lead to just ten entering the final frame. Spearheading the rally was the hotshot Menina. After knocking down his second three-pointer at the 1:20 mark, he uncorked another one with 40 ticks remaining that cut the lead to just ten.
The hot-shooting continued in the early parts of the fourth quarter as the spitfire guard knocked down two more in a span of just 41 seconds that cut the lead to just four, 60-56, with 8:50 to go.“Tiwala lang sa sarili and confidence lang talaga,” he remarked about the rally. “Tsaka yung mga coach sabi lang sa akin ‘just keep on shooting.’”
However, Menina had to subbed out for the next five minutes due to fatigue. “Opo sobrang pagod. Grabe yung pagod nun kasi baba kaagad sa depensa bawat tira. Takbuhan yung laro e,” he said with disappointment.
The Cardinals lost the game 75-65 with Menina topscoring for the team with 15 markers, all coming from three-point country.
Victorious Head Coach Jamike Jarin though complimented the Cardinals especially the guards, including Menina. “It [the final score] shows how good a team they really are. They were shooting right in front of us and it was going in. It’s a testament to the confidence their coaches are giving them and the excellent shooting they teach them,” Jarin said after the game.
When asked what went wrong during the first half, Menina shrugged and said, “misunderstanding lang talaga on offense. Di maganda ikot ng bola namin.” This “misunderstanding” resulted to questionable shot-selection for the team that resulted to a dismal 24% first half shooting. “Pero nabawi naman nung second half. Kaso po malaki po masyado yung lamang nila nung simula. Nabitin tsaka pagod nagsabay,” he said.
With a lighter schedule remaining compared to the other contenders, the Mapua freshman vows that they will go all-out and make the Mapuan community proud. “[Hopefully] Manalo kami. Lalaban talaga kami patungo sa Final Four,” he closed. And with just two games remaining and a 10-6 slate, Menina and the Cardinals’ must sweep the opposition to at least gain a playoff opportunity to enter the Final Four.
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