Mapua University is back in the big dance after 31 years.
The Cardinals set up a finals showdown with Intramuros neighbor and defending NCAA Seniors Basketball champion Colegio de San Juan de Letran after ending San Beda University’s 14-season final streak with a 70-67 victory, Wednesday at the Filoil Flying V Centre in San Juan City.
This is Mapua’s first finals appearance since the 67th season of the league that saw them win it all at the expense of San Sebastian College-Recoletos. The best-of-three finals between the Knights and the Cardinals will begin on Sunday.
“Masayang-masaya at yung mga taong walang sawang naniniwala sa amin,” said an emotional Cardinals head coach Randy Alcantara, who was part of the team that won the crowns in Seasons 66 and 67. “Dinedidecate namin ito kay Amang Lopez. Wala kaming tigil na nagtrabaho dahil naniniwala siya sa mga players.”
Just like the first game of the series that saw the Red Lions eke out a 73-67 overtime win last Wednesday, the final quarter was furious.
The Cardinals were up 11 early in the game before the Red Lions were able to get a six-point edge later on.
With the game tied at 61-all with 2:27 left, Adrian Nocom fired a booming trey to give the Cardinals some cushion.
JP Bahio, Paolo Hernandez, James Canlas, Arvin Gamboa, and Ralph Penuela, in that order, exchanged baskets at a furious pace to keep San Beda in the game.
Miscommunication though took place for the young Red Lions late — something uncharacteristic compared to past San Beda teams.
After a missed three by Nocum, San Beda was not able to secure the board that led to possession going back to Mapua.
During the ensuing play, the Red Lions sent Toby Agustin to the stripe late into the game clock — 6.7 seconds to be exact.
“Masaya ako na nakuha yung panalo sa San Beda,” said Alcantara, who steered Mapua to a 7-2 elimination round record to secure twice-to-beat over San Beda. “Pero tulad ng sinasabi ko dati, nagtrabaho talaga yung mga players at kine-credit ko ito sa kanila. Hindi ganun kadali matalo yung San Beda at tinrabaho nila yung game nila na ito.”
Gamboa led the Cardinals with 13 points, 10 rebounds. three blocks, two assists, and a steal while Brian Lacap added 13 points on two treys. Hernandez also had 11 points.
Bonifacio, who will be part of this season’s Mythical and All-Defensive teams, got eight points and six rebounds while Nocom also chipped in seven points and seven rebounds.
Rookie Yukien Andrada, meanwhile, stepped up for the Red Lions with 19 points on 7-of-11 shooting. James Canlas and Peter Alfaro added 11 markers each with the former also tallying four assists, three rebounds, and two steals. JB Bahio grabbed 15 rebounds with nine points as well.
Mapua (70) — Gamboa 13, Lacap 13, Hernandez 11, Bonifacio 8, Nocum 7, Pido 6, Agustin 6, Mercado 6, Salenga 0, Garcia 0.
San Beda (67) –– Andrada 19, Kwekuteye 11, Alfaro 11, Bahio 9, Penuela 5, Abuda 3, Cuntapay 2, Cortez 2, Jopia 2, Amsali 2, Ynot 1, Sanchez 0.
Quarterscores: 9-9, 27-24, 48-49, 70-67