Mapua University started slow, but finished fine, Friday at Filoil Flying V Centre, to score a 79-76 triumph over Emilio Aguinaldo College and go streaking anew in the NCAA 95 Men’s Basketball Tournament.
The Cardinals caught fire in the last eight minutes with Noah Lugo, Laurenz Victoria, and Cyril Gonzales conniving for a 15-2 run that erased a two-point deficit, 60-62, and erected a 75-64 advantage with 4:19 remaining. "Credit sa EAC kasi ready talaga sila. Mas aggressive sila nung start so nung second half, sinabi ko sa kanilang kailangang matapatan namin yung energy nila," head coach Randy Alcantara said.
Still, the Generals kept coming and Marwin Taywan’s short stab pulled them within 76-78 with 46.8 ticks to go on the clock only to see Mapua dig deep and stand strong until the final buzzer.
In that last possession, they held on for the win after forcing Taywan and JP Maguliano into two forced shots each.
Warren Bonifacio finally got the rebound for the Cardinals after the last miss, his 10th of the game to go along with 13 points, and passed the ball to Lugo.
Not long after, the veteran guard was sent to the line where he made the first and missed the second.
The rebound, though, went to Justin Serrano who sealed the deal in the red and gold's back-to-back wins - which they got even without super rookie Paolo Hernandez who was out due to a knee injury and even after losing Victoria to an apparent foot injury late.
Victoria still wound up with 11 points on top of six rebounds and three assists while Lugo had 16 markers, four boards, and two dimes of his own to make sure their side built on its momentum from its big-time double-overtime victory versus Colegio de San Juan de Letran a week ago.
More than the latest win run, Mapua has now won five of its last six to ascend to the sixth spot in the standings at 5-6. "One game at a time pa rin kasi kung titingnan mo, kaya naman. Kailangan lang maging consistent kami sa ginagawa namin," coach Randy said.
Maguliano topped the scoring column for EAC with 15 points while Taywan also added 13 markers, six rebounds, two assists, and two steals. Unable to complete the comeback, however, they lost for the 10th time in a row and 11th overall in 12 games.
MAPUA 79 - Lugo 16, Bonifacio 13, Victoria 11, Gonzales 9, Gamboa 7, Bunag 6, Serrano 5, Nieles 4, Nocum 4, Salenga 2, Aguirre 2, Garcia 0.
EAC 76 - Maguliano 15, Taywan 13, De Guzman 12, Mendoza 10, Dayrit 8, Cadua 7, Gurtiza 4, Luciano 3, Estacio 2, Martin 2, Gonzales 0.
QUARTER SCORES: 17-20, 35-43, 58-56, 79-76.
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