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MANILA, Philippines – After failing to help end the Mapua Cardinals’ 32-year title drought in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament, star guard Clint Escamis already has his sights set on their revenge tour in Season 100.
Escamis and the Cardinals were just one win away from bringing the championship back to Intramuros after drawing first blood in their best-of-three championship series against the San Beda Red Lions but failed to capitalize on the opportunity as they suffered a 71-65 setback in Game 2 and a stinging 76-66 loss in Game 3.
The Cardinals were even on top by 4 points, 57-53, at the start of the fourth quarter of their winner-take-all Game 3 showdown before getting outscored by the Red Lions, 23-9, in the final 10 minutes of the season as they saw the crown slip away before 23,077 fans at the Araneta Coliseum on Sunday, December 17.
“There’s always next year,” said Escamis, the Season 99 MVP and Rookie of the Year.
“I said during my speech earlier, use this as a motivation, especially for those who are coming back. When January hits, we go back to work, we go back to the grind,” he added in a mix of English and Filipino.
“I told them, don’t look down. Look at San Beda while they’re cutting the net. Use that as fuel for next season.”
Escamis will be on a mission next season as he endured forgettable performances for the Cardinals in Games 2 and 3 of the finals.
San Beda’s stifling defense held Escamis to 28 points on a woeful 8-of-43 clip from the field in those last two games combined.
The do-it-all guard started off strong in Game 3, pouring in 10 of his 13 points in the first two quarters before being completely shut down in the second half, including a scoreless fourth quarter, where he missed all his seven field goal attempts.
“This is a learning curve for us. They gave me all the green light, and as a player, I also have to mature in terms of my shot selection and looking for my teammates,” said Escamis.
“It’s also my fault,” he added.
With team captain Warren Bonifacio graduating and sweet-shooting guard Paolo Hernandez still unsure of playing his final year, the 23-year-old Escamis is more than ready to embrace the leadership role for Mapua next season.
“If I’m the only one left, I’ll take the challenge. Still a lot, one year, let’s go,” said Escamis.
“I’m ready for the challenge.” – Rappler.com