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NCAA 99: Hernandez, Escamis eliminate Benilde, carry Mapua to Finals


In a battle between the last two second-place teams in the NCAA Seniors Basketball Tournament, Mapua University showed why it was the number one team of the season, as the Cardinals eliminated the College of Saint Benilde from Season 99 after a 78-67 victory on Tuesday at the SM Mall of Asia Arena, Pasay.

After a close battle in the first three and a half quarters, the Cardinals took control in the last five minutes, overwhelming the Blazers with their composure and resolve.

Trailing 64-65 after a Miguel Oczon and-1 with 4:43 to go, Mapua increased the defensive intensity, allowing only two points to the Blazers for the rest of the way.

The Cardinals ended the game on a 14-2 run, shattering the dreams of the Benilde faithful on their way to the Finals.

“Unang una, maraming salamat sa binigay ng Panginoon sa amin ang laro ngayon, credit din sa Saint Benilde na maganda ang game ngayon. Hindi ito binigay sa amin nang ganoon kadali. Pero siyempre, ang focus namin diyan ay paano namin itutuloy na maging consistent. With the help of these two veterans, Clint Escamis and Paolo Hernandez, nagawa namin. ‘Yun ang kuwento rin, ‘yung defense namin noong fourth quarter,” explained head coach Randy Alcantara after the game.

Alcantara shared after the game that the team was extra motivated to make it back to the finals and refused to lose sight of their goal of another championship for Mapua.

“Sabi nga noong pregame, nung against JRU nga motivation namin makabawi, ngayon one game away na lang na sa finals na kami, so kailangan doble pa namin, ipushp a namin yung sarili namin at lalo kaming magtiwala at dumisiplina doon sa depensa namin. Ayun, team effort, teamwork, and trust sabi ko nga sa mga players. Nadala namin hanggang doon sa pangarap namin kasi kung ito finals na, hindi ganoong kadali. Kailangan doble, triple trabaho namin,” Alcantara said.

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The backcourt duo of Paolo Hernandez and Clint Escamis got it done for Mapua once again, with Hernandez dropping a game-high 22 points on 4/9 threes, while Clint Escamis tallied 21 points, eight boards, and four assists.

The Cardinals booked their long-awaited return trip to the finals after falling short of the championship in Season 97, then failing to make the final four in Season 98. They await the results of the series between San Beda University and Lyceum of the Philippines University to find out their championship opponents.

Miguel Oczon led the way for the Blazers as he finished with 17 points and six boards. Graduating players Miguel Corteza and Prince Carlos both had solid outings in their final game, as Corteza finished with 14 points and eight boards, while Carlos had 10 points and four boards.

After entering the season as one of the championship favorites, the Blazers ran out of gas against Mapua and fell short of their title goals.

“To be honest, I still think it’s a disappointing season, although I did tell the guys making the Final Four is already an achievement,” said Tiu, who thanked his seniors, including Will Gozum, Miguel Corteza, and Robi Nayve, for their service to the school.

“I consider it a failure on my part. I told them I’m the one to blame for this,” he added.

Benilde enters the offseason looking to retool as veterans like Gozum, Robi Nayve, Miguel Corteza, and Prince Carlos move on to greener pastures.

The Scores:

Mapua 78- Hernandez 22, Escamis 21, Cuenco 10, Bonifacio 9, Soriano 6, Rodillo 4, Recto 3, Asuncion 3, Igliane 0, Fornis 0, Dalisay 0

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CSB 67- Oczon 17, Corteza 14, Carlos 10, Gozum 9, Sangco 5, Mara 5, Turco 3, Arciaga 2, Marcos 2, Nayve 0, Cajucom 0, Marasigan 0, Davis 0

Quarterscores: 14-18, 34-37, 56-55, 78-67

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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