Down to just nine healthy Cardinals, the Mapua University still managed to rally back on Thursday afternoon, taking a stunning 76-71 come-from-behind win against the skidding University of Perpetual Help System DALTA Altas.
With the win, Mapua lifted itself out of the bottom of the cellar, leaping ahead of the CSB Blazers with a 3-12 slate. Perpetual, on the other hand, dropped its fifth straight game, falling to 4-11.
But according to super senior guard Andrew Estrella, the team’s mindset was to win this one for JP Nieles.
“Kasi yung huling huddle namin, sabi lang namin na para kay JP ang game na ito. Binigay niya lahat, tapos ganun ang nangyari,” said Estrella, who fired 22 points on 9-for-19 shooting — including the go-ahead basket with 20.6 ticks left.
Nieles — who was out for Mapua last season due to an ACL injury — saw his left kneecap crash with Keith Pido’s with 5:16 left in the game. The possession led to a wide-open layup for Flash Sadiwa and a 66-59 lead for Perpetual.
“Grabe ang kumpyansa na binibigay sa amin ni coach atoy kaya ganyan ang kinalabasan ng laro namin,” added Estrella.
Rallying behind their fallen comrade, Estrella sparked a 12-1 rally with a banker with 2:21 left. He then followed this up with an assist to Christian Bunag.
A split on the stripe by Prince Eze tried to quell the Mapua rally, but Estrella threw up a beautiful floter with 54.8 ticks remaining to knot things up at 71-all.
A miss by Eze on the other end led to an Estrella triple over Flash Sadiwa to finally put Mapua ahead.
“Sobrang laki ng panalo na ito kasi para sa susunod na season, yung kumpyansa ng mga batang papasok, maganda ang morale,” Estrella expressed.
GJ Ylagan’s triple went in and out of the rim, resulting in a breakaway layup by Leo Gabo to ice the game.
Bunag finished with another triple-double for Mapua, holding the fort with 19 points on a highly-efficient 9-for-11 clip to go along with 14 rebounds. Laurenz Victoria chipped in 14 markers.
Ylagan paced Perpetual with 22 markers but needed 20 attempts to reach that output. Keith Pido and Prince Eze added 18 and 15 markers respectively, with the latter grabbing 14 rebounds.
Mapua look to spoil JRU’s Final Four hopes on Tuesday, October 10, at 2:00pm. Perpetual hope to end their streak on Thursday, October 12, against the Arellano Chiefs at 2:00pm.
MU 76 – Estrella 22, Buñag 19, Victoria 14, Aguirre 9, Gabo 6, Raflores 6, Jimenez 0, Nieles 0, Orquina 0, Pelayo 0.
UPHSD 71 – Ylagan 22, Pido 18, Eze 15, Sadiwa 5, Yuhico 5, Lucente 4, Dagangon 2, Clemente 0, Coronel 0, Mangalino 0, Tamayo 0.
Quarterscores: 22-17, 38-42, 55-55, 76-71.
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