Coach Atoy Co found a lethal combo in Joseph Eriobu and Kenneth Ighalo as the Mapua Cardinals chalked up their first NCAA men’s basketball tournament victory under their new coach with a 104-99 double overtime triumph over the San Sebastian College Stags last night at Filoil Flying V Arena.
Eriobu was a revelation for the Cardinals, firing a career-high 30 points and grabbing 11 rebounds in an impressive performance that had Co later praising his team to high heavens.
“Double overtime, wow! I’m so happy with this win,” said Co, a two-time NCAA Most Valuable Player and a PBA great, in his first collegiate coaching stint.
“The pressure is really on me to deliver and the victory has somehow eased the pressure,” added the Crispa legend in the PBA.
Ighalo complemented Eriobu’s surprising figures with 21 points and 16 rebounds as the Cardinals bounced back from an opening-day loss against the Jose Rizal U Heavy Bombers.
“I want to develop this team into a fighting unit,” said Co. “I will work harder because from now on, every team will be watching us.”
In the nightcap, Perpetual joined idle Letran on top at 2-0 with a 78-70 win over JRU. The Bombers joined a 5-way tie for second at 1-1.
The Stags led by as many as 57-37 in the third quarter but squandered the opportunity to nail their second win in three games.
Eriobu split his charities in the closing minutes for an eight-point breather. But Raffy Gusi struck with five straight points that trimmed the deficit to 99-102.
Mapua had a chance to seal the outcome in the ensuing play but Darrel Magsigay flubbed both free throws, giving coach Topex Robinson and the Stags one final shot to stretch the game to another overtime.
Gusi found himself covered in the next sequence and was forced to launch a desperation three that hit nothing but air. Eriobu closed the scoring with a pair of free throws, to the delight of the Mapua crowd in the stands.
Jovit dela Cruz paced the Stags with 24 points and 10 rebounds.
In juniors’ play, the San Sebastian Staglets edged the Mapua Red Robins, 63-60, while the JRU Light Bombers defeated the Perpetual Help Junior Altas, 87-74, to gain a share of the lead with the San Beda Red Cubs at 2-0.
The scores (Seniors):
MIT 104—Eriobu 30, Ighalo 21, Braña 15, Saitanan 15, Isit 10, Estrella 4, Magsigay 4, Cantos 3, Biteng 2, Layug 0.
SAN SEBASTIAN 99—Dela Cruz 24, Perez 24, De Vera 17, Ortouste 14, Guinto 8, Tano 6, Gusi 5, Magno 1, Aquino 0, Vergara 0.
Quarters: 27-12, 45-31, 57-55, 76-76, 88-88, 104-99 (2OT)