THE Mapua Cardinals had to scramble but eventually pulled off a 69-59 verdict over cellar-dwelling College of St. Benilde in the 92nd National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) men’s basketball tournament at The Arena in San Juan, yesterday.
Allwell Oraeme showed the way with 16 points and nine rebounds as he led the Cardinals to their 11th win in 16 games.
This sent the Cardinals to their second straight Final Four appearance with still two games left in their 18-game schedule.
The Blazers put up a big fight in the first half but their guns misfired towards the end. It was a sorry loss for the Blazers, who sustained their 16th consecutive setback.
Meanwhile, Michael Calisaan tallied 22 points as the San Sebastian College Stags repulsed the Emilio Aguinaldo College Generals, 87-81, to post their seventh win in 17 games in the 92nd National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) men’s basketball tournament at the Arena in San Juan.
The Stags, who also drew 14 points from Allan Bulanadi, got off to a great start, taking charge with a 29-16 edge at the end of the first quarter.
They had little trouble in coasting to their sixth win against two losses at the end of the second round and move to a respectable seventh place standing near the end of the second round.
The Blazers started strong after taking charge with an 18-11 lead in the first period.
Gerard Castor, Clement Leutcheu and Carlo Young all had 10 points. They led the Blazers who were in charge early and even held the lead at halftime, 31-29.
The Blazers last enjoyed a 39-35 edge off Yankie Haruna’s drive in the last 6:12.
The Cardinals then began taking advantage of turnovers and missed shots to unleash a 10-1 run in the last 2:34 of the third.
CJ Isit’s steal and driving layup in the last 6:24 touched off Mapua’s big rally. The Cardinals went on to move ahead, 45-42, with 2:34 to go off Oraeme’s three-point play.
A 6-0 spurt off baskets from Isit, Justine Serrano and Joseph Eriobu widened the Cards’ edge by eight, 56-48, with 6:40 to go.
They went on to post their biggest lead of 12, 65-53, off Serrano’s putback as they watched the Blazers misfire basket after basket.
“I’m happy we’re in the Final Four. We virtually had to pass through the eye of a needle,” head coach Atoy Co said.
With the victory, the Cardinals put an end to the Jose Rizal University Heavy Bombers’ Final Four quest with their 9-8 slate.
“I do not know maybe the boys were pressured. Benilde had everything to gain but nothing to lose right? They (Blazers) just played their game. I think they played harder than us in the first two quarters,” he said.
The Blazers’ slate is considered as one of the worst in league history even if Blazers win their last two games.
The Generals have a 5-11 card in ninth place and are on their way to a better finish than last season when they had a 2-16 slate at the bottom of the standings.
The Stags went on to post a 20-point spread, 72-52, in the fourth.
“There aren’t any no-bearing games for us. Because the players want to continue to learn and improve,” said Stags coac Egay Macaraya.
Sidney Onwubere led the Generals with 19 points before he was thrown out in the final period after two technical fouls.
Hamadou Laminou finished with a double-double of 18 points and 15 rebounds.
(NCAA junior basketball at The Arena in San Juan)
9 a.m. Lyceum vs JRU
10:45 a.m. LSGH vs San Beda
12:30 p.m. Arellano vs Mapua
2:15 p.m. Letran vs San Sebastian
4 p.m. EAC vs Perpetual Help