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MANILA, Philippines – The Mapua Cardinals became the first team to book a Final Four ticket in the NCAA Season 99 men’s basketball tournament after making light work of the Perpetual Help Altas, 69-53, at the FilOil EcoOil Centre on Wednesday, November 15.
Fresh from a 21-point explosion in their 71-69 escape of the San Beda Red Lions last Sunday, November 12, MVP contender Clint Escamis shone the brightest for the Cardinals anew, putting up an all-around stat line of 17 points, 4 rebounds, 4 assists, 6 steals, and 1 block.
After missing the Final Four bus last season due to a seventh-place finish, Mapua not only secured a spot in the playoffs, but also clinched a coveted twice-to-beat advantage as it improved its league-best record to 13-3.
On the other hand, Perpetual saw its four-game winning streak halted and dropped to sixth place with an 8-8 slate – tied with the EAC Generals.
Warren Bonifacio backstopped Escamis with 11 points, while Jopet Soriano added 10 markers for the Cardinals, who led by as many as 22 points in the lopsided affair.
For the Altas, Arthur Roque was the only player who finished in double-digit scoring with 13 points, to go along with his game-high 12 rebounds.
In the second game, the San Beda Red Lions put an end to their two-game losing streak with an all-important 65-61 win over the College of St. Benilde Blazers.
The fifth-seeded Red Lions boosted their playoff chances and moved closer to the Blazers and the JRU Heavy Bombers with a 9-6 record.
CSB and JRU are just one win above San Beda with an identical 10-6 slate.
After failing to convert on a potential game-winning triple in the Red Lions’ previous outing, Yukien Andrada redeemed himself as he sizzled for a game-high 22 points on 4-of-10 shooting from deep.
Jacob Cortez, likewise, came up huge for San Beda with 15 points, 4 rebounds, and 8 assists.
Reigning MVP Will Gozum paced the Blazers in the loss with 16 points, while Joshua Cajucom stepped up with 13 markers on a perfect 4-of-4 field goal clip.
CSB gunner Migs Oczon had a forgettable outing as San Beda’s defense held him to just 5 points on an awful 0-of-10 shooting from beyond the arc.
Mapua 69 – Escamis 17, Bonifacio 11, Soriano 10, Cuenco 8, Dalisay 6, Recto 4, Rosillo 4, Morenos 4, Hernandez 3, Igliane 2, Asuncion 0, Bancale 0, Sabsalon 0.
Perpetual 53 – Roque 13, Pagaran 9, Abis 7, Nitura 6, Razon 6, Gelsano 4, Omega 3, Barcuma 3, Ferreras 2, Nunez 0, Boral 0, Cuevas 0.
Quarters: 11-8, 29-21, 56-36, 69-53.
San Beda 65 – Andrada 22, Cortez 15, Alfaro 7, Payosing 7, Gonzales 5, Puno 4, Tagle 3, Jopia 2, Cuntapay 0, Visser 0, Royo 0.
CSB 61 – Gozum 16, Cajucom 13, Carlos 8, Nayve 7, Corteza 6, Oczon 5, Sangco 2, Turco 2, Arciaga 2, Marcos 0, Mara 0, Jarque 0.
Quarters: 13-14, 29-32, 45-45, 65-61.