Lowly Cards, Generals bring down league leaders
After a time that it seemingly could not win anything, Mapua is on a tear and its chances—though wafer-thin—of making the playoffs of the NCAA Season 98 men’s basketball championship looks possible.
And after the celebration of the Cardinals’ first winning streak had died down at San Juan Arena on Sunday, another side in the doldrums rejoiced, although Emilio Aguinaldo’s chances of making it past the eliminations are far-fetched compared to Mapua’s.
The Cardinals scored a 62-59 win over Lyceum, while the Generals snapped out of a nine-game slide by taking down College of St. Benilde, 80-75, as the sides that occupied the top two spots at the start of the day took bitter losses that made the Final Four race open.
“We played as a team. Even when we were down we did not collapse. I think that’s the factor for our back-to-back wins. We all did our roles,” Mapua guard JJ Pido said after helping the Cardinals rise to 2-8 while dooming the Pirates to a 7-3 card.
Mapua had a 58-55 lead heading into the dying seconds when Warren Bonifacio sank a clutch jumper from the midrange to put them up, 60-55, with 32.4 left.
Mac Guadaña sank a triple to put the Pirates within range, but Pido sank two free throws that iced the game. The Mapua playmaker finished with 11 points.
“I’m very very happy. I just can’t express it cause I always look mad, but deep inside I’m happy,” said Emilio Aguinaldo coach Oliver Bunyi. “Once they realize they have the potential, we can improve more.”
The Generals unloaded a game-deciding 8-2 run capped by a Nat Cosejo floater with 48.7 seconds remaining for a 78-75 lead Emilio Aguinaldo protected which doomed the Blazers to just their second loss in nine matches.
Cosejo had 24 points and nine rebounds. Ralph Bajon scored 16 while Mac Balowa and Allen Liwag finished with 10 points apiece in a balanced effort for the Generals.
Will Gozum had 19 points and nine boards for the Blazers, with Robi Nayve and James Pasturan chipping in 13 and 11 points, respectively.