Mapua looks back at past glory after streaking to seventh win | Inquirer Sports
NCAA

Mapua looks back at past glory after streaking to seventh win

/ 05:15 AM October 19, 2023

Mapua's Clint Escamis soars for a layup.-NCAA Photo

Mapua’s Clint Escamis soars for a layup.-NCAA Photo

Mapua feels it can look forward to a big season after a strong start in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament. But after Sunday’s victory, the Cardinals could not help but look back to when they were the league’s best. “We showed a big heart then,” said Mapua coach Randy Alcantara, who was part of the last Mapua squad to win an NCAA crown 32 years ago.

Those Cardinals were led by the 6-foot-3 Benny Cheng, a versatile big man who eventually made his mark in the pros. “When he got to play in the PBA (Philippine Basketball Association), Benny Cheng was [a small forward]. But with us, he was the center,” Alcantara recalled.

Cheng made up for grit what he lacked in size, and that stout fighting heart is what Alcantara sees in his players in this Season 99 tournament.

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“I see big heart in this team also,” he said, after the Cardinals struck down the Arellano Chiefs, 79-65, on Wednesday at Filoil EcoOil Centre.

Mapua nailed its seventh win in eight games to stay on top of the standings, with skipper Warren Bonifacio and Most Valuable Player (MVP) candidate Clint Escamis figuring strongly in a 17-4 run that allowed the Cardinals to run away from a deadlock at 26 in the second quarter and take a 43-30 lead at the break.

“We just want to repay the support given to us by the school and our coaching staff,” said Bonifacio, who is in the final season of a 10-year stint with Mapua that started with the Cardinals’ high school program.

Bonifacio wound up with team-highs of 14 points and 10 rebounds while Escamis flaunted his vast array of skills as he finished with nine points, nine rebounds, five assists and five steals.

That all around production showed why Escamis continues to be part of the MVP conversation, but the scrappy Cardinal said he is looking at a different prize.“My main goal is the Final Four and [a] championship,” he said.

—INQUIRER SPORTS STAFF
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TAGS: Arellano Chiefs, Mapua, Men’s basketball, NCAA

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