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NCAA 99: Cuenco, struggling Hernandez come through late vs Perpetual as Mapua keeps solo lead

Mapua University overcame a rough shooting performance from its two primary scorers Paolo Hernandez and Clint Escamis as they narrowly defeated the University of Perpetual Help System DALTA in a 62-61 battle in the NCAA Season 99 Seniors Basketball Tournament on Saturday at the Filoil Ecooil Centre.

The Cardinals completed the first round with six consecutive victories, concluding with an 8-1 record, a complete turnaround from their 1-8 start in Season 98.

Head coach Randy Alcantara credited their poor start last season for enhancing their work ethic before each game in Season 99.

“Na-experience na ng lahat ng players na talo kami eh. Na-sweep kami ng Letran ng bubble, tapos nagsimula kami ng 1-8 last season. Kailangan trabahuhin na namin ito bawat laro. Mahirap, maraming sacrifices, pero iyon ang kailangan para manalo. Nagtutulungan talaga kami sa loob ng court,” said Alcantara.

Escamis and Hernandez shot a combined 7-of-30 from the field and 1-of-11 from beyond the arc – totaling 18 points. However, the guard duo remained essential on the court due to their leadership and contributions in other aspects of the game.

Escamis secured 11 rebounds, two assists, and three steals in addition to his 10 points. Meanwhile, Hernandez also contributed 11 rebounds and four assists alongside his eight points.

In their absence, Mapua’s rookies stepped up on the scoring end. Marc Cuenco scored 13 points and made all three of his three-point attempts.

JC Recto had an all-around game with 12 points, shooting 50-percent, along with six rebounds, two assists, and five steals.

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Alcantara credited his seniors for guiding the rookies to perform beyond expectations with their on-court leadership on a night when their shooting was off.

“Sabi ko nga, palagi maganda yung combination na iyon eh. Yung mga rookies nakakapag-compete. Yung leadership nina Clint, Paolo, at (Warren) Bonifacio, iyon ang importante. Nandun sila, hindi man sila makakascore, pero yung suporta nila sa mga rookies ay talagang binibigay nila. Hindi sila nawawala sa mga importanteng sandali na iyon,” shared Alcantara.

By the fourth quarter, neither the Cardinals nor the Altas could establish a significant advantage, with both sides having equal opportunities to seize the game. A layup from Pagaran with 8:52 left in the quarter saw Mapua trailing 49-53.

That then ignited a 10-0 run that shifted the momentum in their favor, taking a 59-53 lead.

The Cardinals later saw their lead reduced to just one point, 62-61, with 2:39 left on the clock after a jumper from John Abis. Still, they intensified their defensive effort to stave off the Altas.

Perpetual missed their last three shot attempts, allowing Mapua to hold on to the victory.

The Cardinals will commence their second-round campaign against the College of Saint Benilde on Wednesday at 4:00 PM.

The Altas had another challenging night from behind the three-point line, making only two of their 16 attempts.

Christian Pagaran played a crucial role for Perpetual on both ends of the court, contributing 15 points, nine rebounds, one steal, and four blocks. John Abis was the only other player in double-digits for Perpetual, scoring 15 points.

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Mark Omega narrowly missed a double-double with eight points and 10 rebounds.

Jun Roque and Jielo Razon had quiet performances in Saturday’s matchup against Mapua. Roque scored just five points after attempting only four shots in the game.

Meanwhile, Razon had a 22% shooting percentage for his four points.

Perpetual suffered back-to-back losses to end the first round, bringing their record to 3-6. They aim to return to winning form at the beginning of the second round against Colegio de San Juan de Letran on Wednesday at 2:00 PM.

The Scores:

MU 62 – Cuenco 13, Recto 12, Escamis 10, Hernandez 8, Bonifacio 8, Dalisay 5, Soriano 4, Asuncion 2, Rosillo 0, Igliane 0, Fornis 0

UPHSD 61 – Abis 15, Pagaran 15, Omega 8, Nitura 6, Roque 5, Nunez 5, Razon 4, Ferreras 3, Orgo 0, Barcuma 0, Gelsano 0

Quarterscores: 17-16, 33-35, 49-49, 62-61

Written By

Vito Martin is a sportswriter from the Philippines. In 2023, he graduated from the Ateneo De Manila University with a degree in BS Psychology. He wrote for Ateneo’s official school publication The GUIDON, where he covered basketball, football, baseball, badminton, and other collegiate sports. He is a life-long fan of the Boston Celtics and an avid follower of the NBA

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