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Red-hot Cardinals barrel Letran, extend streak to five



The Knight’s stretch of facing a murderer’s row of opponents started-off in a bad note as it crashed into a wall named Allwell Oraeme

The rampaging Mapua Institute of Technology Cardinals extended its win streak to five games in running past the Colegio de San Juan de Letran Knights, 82-77, to keeps its Final Four hopes alive late Tuesday afternoon at the Filoil Flying V Arena.

The Cardinals, who were without floor general CJ Isit and head coach Atoy Co, started the game by running past the Knights. Pull-up jumpers by Exeqiel Biteng, Darrell Menina, and Allwell Oraeme led the surge to open the game with a 7-2 lead. The Knights came storming back with their pressing defense while leaning on Rey Nambatac and Jomari Sollano on offense. The two combined for 17 of the 24 first quarter points Knights that gave the league leaders a 24-16 lead.

After Letran gained a 33-26 lead with 4:14 remaining in the second quarter, the Cardinals blitzed their Intramuros neighbors with a 16-3 blast. Rookie JP Nieles sparked the rally while Justin Serrano carried the run in scoring seven points, including a three-pointer. A pushing foul by McJour Luib ended up with free throws for Nieles to cap the run. The Cardinals held a 42-36 lead to enter the second half.

Josan Nimes spaced the floor for well for the Cardinals to open the second half. Nimes was on point in his passes in finding Nieles for a three-pointer and throwing two hail-mary passes to a running Oraeme. Oraeme, later on, returned the favor to the Rain or Shine-bound Nimes to extend the lead to 53-38. After a timeout, Luib found Mark Cruz for a three-pointer but Cruz was called for an unsportsmanlike foul for kicking Serrano. This sparked another 5-0 Mapua rally that gave the Ed Cordero-mentored squad the biggest lead of the game 58-44. Oraeme stabilized the team on offense to close-out the quarter as Nambatac and Cruz converted on three-pointers to give the Cardinals a 62-49 lead entering the final quarter.

The Letran Knights struggled to cut the lead to open the fourth as Racal and Nambatac missed on open three-pointers and pointblank layups. The House of Chaos was fortunate to be only down 72-58 with 5:45 remaining. After a timeout, the Knights pressed hard on defense resulting to turnovers. With the Cardinals holding a 79-67 lead with 2:42 to go, Cruz sparked a 9-4 rally as he found his touch from downtown. Missed free throws by Menina was quickly responded by a Cruz find to an open Kevin Racal who sinked in a three-pointer to cut the lead to just four, 81-77. In the ensuing possession, an Mapua inbound was tapped by Luib that resulted to a turnover. However, the outlet pass to Racal resulted to a steal by Nieles, who was then fouled. A split on the charity stripe by Nieles sealed the game 82-77 for the Cardinals.

“Every game, we are improving. This is the longest streak as far as coach Atoy and I are concerned,” deputy head coach Ed Cordero told us after the win. Moreover, Cordero shared with us what he told the boys prior to the game. “I will share with you what I told the boys before we left the room,” he said “’If we are truly winners, the more we work hard for every game.’”

Cordero was also grateful that Josan Nimes, even though he was nursing an injury, still played in this crucial tilt and helped his squad extend its winning streak to five games. Nimes just had five markers but dished out four assists. The backcourt of Menina and Nieles also combined for 28 points.

The Cardinals relied upon 19 year old foreign student-athlete Allwell Oraeme all throughout the game as he played 37 minutes and had 19 markers and grabbed a whopping 30 rebounds. Cordero also warned that Oraeme is still raw and the league better watch out when he matures.

For the now 11-3 Knights, they were led by Mark Cruz with 17 points, that included 5 three-pointers. He added six rebounds, four assists, and three steals to his totals. Smart Elite ambassador Rey Nambatac again struggled from the field in shooting just 5/15 from the field, good for 15 points. He added three boards, four assists, and three steals.

As a team, the Knights were a dismal 33% from the field, including a horrible 11/41 from downtown. Moreover, they were outrebounded 53-38 by the towering Cardinals.

The Mapua Cardinals (8-5) will look to continue its fantasy run as they face the Arellano University Chiefs on Friday, September 18 at 2:00pm while the Letran Knights (11-2) look to bounce back against the JRU Heavy Bombers on the same day at 4:00pm.

The Scores:
MIT (82) – Oraeme 18, Nieles 16, Serrano 14, Menina 12, Que 6, Nimes 5, Aguirre 4, Brana 4, Biteng 3, Raflores 0.
CSJL (77) – Cruz 17, Racal 16, Nambatac 15, Sollano 12, Apreku 6, Balanza 5, Quinto 4, Luib 2, Bernabe 0, Gedaria 0.
Quarterscores: 16-25, 36-42, 62-49, 82-77.

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