Mapua Cardinals a win away from 32-year NCAA championship drought

Mapua Cardinals a win away from 32-year NCAA championship drought

Games Sunday (MOA)
9 a.m. — CSB vs LPU (Battle for Third)
12:30 p.m.— Awarding Ceremony
2 p.m. — San Beda vs Mapua (Game Two)

THE LONG National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) championship wait could be over soon for the Mapua University Cardinals.

Displaying disciplined defense and unveiling an MVP Clint Escamis, Mapua sent an upset-conscious San Beda University crashing with an epic 68-63 victory yesterday and moved on the cusp of arranging a date with destiny in NCAA Season 99 before a sizable Mall of Asia (MOA) Arena crowd.

The Cardinals found a way to stifle Jacob Cortez and the Red Lions’ assassin-like gunners by holding them to just a combined five triples out of 32 tries while Mr. Escamis buried a mammoth triple and two foul shots late in claiming the win and a 1-0 lead in their best-of-three title duel.

That pushed them on the brink of claiming their first crown since winning it all 32 years ago and seventh overall.

Mapua has a chance to achieve the feat if it could replicate its Game One magnificence in Game Two slated Sunday also at MOA.

A decider, if necessary, is on Dec. 17 at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

And it was all because of their defense and Mr. Escamis, who had a game-high 18 points including that decisive five-point swing in the clutch amid cramps that sidelined him for some time in stretches in the third and final period.

The Cardinals, thanks to a feisty and energetic Ryle Rosillo, held Jacob Cortez scoreless after the first half.

Still, Mr. Cortez, son of former PBA player Mike, plodded on and tried to will San Beda back by fueling a furious fourth quarter fight back.

And he almost did.

Almost given up for dead after trailing by as much as 16 points, Mr. Cortez, who wound up with 12 points, drained a tough, buzzer-beating three from near the half court line at the end of the third canto.

It eventually lit San Beda’s flickering hopes as the Red Lions managed to inch closer by just three points before Mapua’s pesky defense stopped it short, sending it sprawling to the former’s third defeat in as many games to the latter this season.

Thanks to it, Mapua has moved a step away from the championship that has eluded the school for so long now. — Joey Villar

The scores:

Mapua 68- Escamis 18, Hernandez 16, Rosillo 15, Bonifacio 15, Bonifacio 6, Recto 5, Cuenco 4, Soriano 4, Fornis 0, Dalisay 0

San Beda 63- Payosing 14, Puno 12, Cortez 12, Andrada 8, Jopia 8, Tagle 5, Cuntapay 2, Visser 2, Alfaro 0, Gonzales 0, Royo 0, Gallego 0

Quarterscores: 17-17; 36-31; 59-48; 68-63