MANILA, Philippines--Slowly but surely rediscovering his lethal form, Mapua stalwart Kelvin Dela Peña, the reigning NCAA Most Valuable Player, is playing a pivotal role in the Cardinals' early-season success.
The Cardinals have racked up four victories in a row as they survived a killer three-game stretch this week unscathed, thanks largely to Dela Peña's stellar performances, which also earned the senior guard the NCAA Press Corps' player of the week honor.
After struggling with just nine points on 2-for-14 shooting in the 29-point blowout loss against San Beda on opening-day, the senior guard bounced back, presiding over the Cardinals' balanced attack by averaging 11.6 points the past three games.
"Kelvin (Dela Peña) was trying to do everything for the team in the first game. It's a good attitude but I told him he will be more effective if he focuses on his role as a scorer," said Mapua coach Leo Isaac, whose squad goes into a 10-day break before facing Letran on July 22.
Mapua's victories against Philippine Christian University and Perpetual Help highlighted Dela Peña's uncanny ability to hit the big shots down the stretch. He nailed a key lay-up with 54.4 seconds remaining that spelled the Dolphins' doom in the Cardinals' 77-71 win Monday.
Dela Peña also knocked in a triple with barely a minute left to quell the Altas' last-ditch assault and allow the Cardinals to escape with a 76-67 decision.
Dela Peña's leadership has coach Leo Isaac even more impressed.
"He has good leadership qualities," Isaac said of Dela Peña, who is expected to join the PBA Draft next month.