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Menina, Mapua deny Letran comeback, repeat bid


It is now safe to say that Letran’s bid for a back-to-back crown has come to a close. And it ended at the hands of Intramuros neighbors Mapua.

The Mapua Institute of Techonology Cardinals, the same team that Letran had eliminated in last year’s Final Four, were able to exact vengeance on the Knights with a 77-72 win, Tuesday afternoon at the Filoil Flying V Centre in San Juan City.

Reigning NCAA MVP Allwell Oraeme led the dethronement after notching another double-double with 21 points and 26 rebounds.

“It’s a good feeling. This win will most likely secure us of the playoffs,” said Oraeme, who was 6-of-11 from the field and 9-of-14 from the stripe. “It was a satisfactory win for us.”

Behind rookie Laurenz Victoria, the Cardinals were able to gain the biggest lead of the game, 57-42, with 1:52 remaining in the third frame. But even with the huge lead in front of them, the defending champions remained valiant.

Rey Nambatac, the second leading scorer of the league, led a 12-0 surge that saw Nambatac weave his way through the Mapua defense, while graduating big man Jom Sollano displayed his feather-light touch to cut the lead to a solitary point three minutes into the final frame.

However, midway through the rally and 8:35 on the clock, Nambatac accidentally sprained his left ankle after stepping on the heel of a referee. He had to be taken out of the game, and when he returned with 4:45 left in the game, he had clearly lost a hop in his step.

A JP Calvo floater with 6:15 remaining then gave Letran their first taste of the lead since the first half, 63-62. However, the smaller Letran frontline could not contain Oraeme, who scored five straight points to give Mapua the lead once again.

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“Yeah it’s good,” Oraeme said with a laugh. “And we got the win.”

Turnovers by the Cardinals, though, helped the Knights tie the game once more with baskets by Sollano and Quinto. But Darell Menina, just as he has done all season long, drained a cold-blooded triple. Moreover, clutch free throws by the Cebuano helped seal the win for the almost Final Four-bound Cardinals.

“Kumpiyansa lang kasi hindi pa ko nakakatira ng three-points nung second half,” shared Menina, who had 12 points in the game. “Tapos yun, tinira ko na lang at pumasok naman. Nakachamba na naman.”

Two other Mapuans scored 12 markers. Joseph Eriobu added eight rebounds to his statline.

For the Knights, Rey Nambatac had 19 markers, seven boards, two dimes, and two steals. Bong Quinto, who was just 4-of-29 in his last two games, went 5-of-13 in this game for 16 points. Graduating forward Felix Apreku grabbed 11 boards in the loss.

The Mapua Cardinals (4th, 10-5) need to win their game against the Benilde Blazers on Thursday, September 15, at 4:00pm. The Letran Knights will end their Season 92 campaign on Friday, September 23, against the EAC Generals.

The Scores:

MIT (77) – Oraeme 21, Eriobu 12, Menina 12, Aguirre 12, Victoria 9, Isit 6, Bunag 3, Estrella 2, Orquina 0, Raflores 0, Serrano 0.

CSJL (72) – Nambatac 19, Quinto 16, Sollano 10, Calvo 10, Balanza 10, Luib 3, Apreku 2, Ambohot 2, Dela Pena 0, Balagasay 0, Ular 0.

Quarterscores: 15-7, 39-29, 60-49, 77-72.

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