Gozum lifts Red Robins over Squires and onto Finals

Gozum lifts Red Robins over Squires and onto Finals
DOWN THE WIRE. Will Gozum lifted Mapua back to the Finals where they will defend their championship.

The championship in the NCAA 93 Men’s Basketball Tournament will go through Mapua University.

Scoring four of his 24 points in the last minute, Will Gozum put the Red Robins on his broad shoulders and carried them past pesky Colegio de San Juan de Letran, 82-80, on Friday at the MOA Arena.

The defending champions were on the brink of losing their twice-to-beat advantage in the semifinals series as the third-seeded Squires were ahead, 78-75, with a minute and a half remaining.

Of course, they weren’t going down without a fight as back-to-back short stabs from Gozum capped off a 6-0 run that suddenly put them in front, 81-78. “Credit sa mga bata pa rin. Dumating na naman yung time sa endgame na kailangan namin yung composure,” head coach Randy Alcantara said.

He then continued, “Buti yung character, yung experience as a champion, napakita namin.”

In both times, the Mapuan tower was well-defended but still willed in the baskets. “Siya na naman. Siyempre,” Alcantara said of him.

Gozum almost threw it all away, however, as in a rebounding sequence in the dying seconds, he incurred an unsportsmanlike foul for swinging an elbow while teammate Mike Enriquez was slapped with a technical foul for taunting.

Those fouls awarded three free throws as well as possession for Letran with two ticks to go on the clock. Kiefer Cordero and Niel Tolentino then made good on 2-of-3 from the line to pull their team to within two.

In the final possession of the game, the Squires found Kobe Monje who had a good look at the top of the key, but his triple try only touched the front of the rim.

And there, the Red Robins celebrated coming out on top in a close contest featuring 14 lead changes and nine deadlocks.

Without a doubt, their big man was a big reason why as he also had nine rebounds and one block. Partner-in-crime Warren Bonifacio was also right there with him with a 16-point, 16-rebound double-double.

Clint Escamis contributed 13 points, seven rebounds, six rebounds, and two steals while Carl Lacap had 12 markers, six boards, and three dimes to his name.

Now, the defending champions can rest up and then gear up for a best-of-three championship round against either San Beda High School or College of St. Benilde-La Salle Greenhills who will duel in a knockout bout on November 7. “Malaking bagay sa amin na makakapahinga na kami, mapapagpreparahan pa namin kung sino makakalaban namin,” Alcantara said.

On the other hand, the Squires bow out of the tournament despite the best efforts of Cordero and Monje who scored 16 and 15 points, respectively.

Still, the semifinals finish is a much welcome development for a program which has been, without a doubt, rejuvenated.

BOX SCORES

MAPUA 82 – Gozum 24, Bonifacio 16, Escamis 13, Lacap 12, Enriquez 7, Garcia 4, Jabel 4, Socias 2, Arches 0

LETRAN 80 – Cordero 16, Monje 15, Guarino 12, Aniban 10, Tolentino 9, Peralta 6, Labrador 6, Tamayo 4, Fuentes 2, Reyson 0, Ganapathy 0, Culanay 0, Tabajen 0, Montes 0

QUARTER SCORES: 24-20, 44-39, 57-58, 82-80

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