MAPUA overcame a stubborn College of Saint Benilde side, 69-59, to clinch the remaining Final Four berth in the NCAA seniors basketball tournament last night at the Filoil Flying V Centre.
The Blazers battled the Cardinals tooth and nail in the first three periods before crumbling in the final quarter, as the Cardinals banked on Darell Menina and Justin Menina to pull away and eventually advance to the semifinals for the second straight year.
Improving its record to 11-5, Mapua joined Arellano University, San Beda and University of Perpetual Help System Dalta in the Final Four, which has been settled with still three playdates left in the elimination round.
But the race for the twice-to-beat slots in the semis is still hanging in the balance, with the Cardinals, tied with the Altas in third and fourth spots, trailing the second-running Red Lions (12-4) by a full game.
The Chiefs are presently holding the league’s best record with a 13-3 slate.
“I’m happy that we are in the Final Four but dumaan kami sa butas ng karayom. I don’t know if they are pressured because St. Benilde has nothing to lose. Noong fourth period, doon nagising ang mga players,” said Mapua coach Atoy Co.
“In the Final Four, we cannot play this way.”
Reigning MVP Allwell Oraeme came through with 16 points and 19 rebounds while Joseph Eriobu was the other Cardinal in twin digits with 13 points.
With its 16th consecutive loss, the Blazers are running out of games to avoid the ignominy of being the first team in the league to go 0-18 in one season.
Yankie Haruna led St. Benilde with 11 points while Gerald Castor, Clement Leutcheu and Carlo Young tossed in 10 points apiece.
Earlier, Michael Calisaan had 22 points and 14 rebounds as San Sebastian rout Emilio Aguinaldo in a no-bearing contest, 87-71, for its seventh win in 17 contests in seventh place.
The Stags actually are 6-2 in the second round, as they hope to end the season on a positive note.
SSC-R (87) - Calisaan 22, Bulanadi 14, Ilagan 13, Fabian 12, Costelo 10, Valdez 5, Gayosa 3, Baetiong 2, Capobres 2, Sera Josef 2, Mercado 1, Calma 1, David 0.
EAC (71) - Onwubere 19, Hamadou Laminou 18, Morada 14, Munsayac 11, Mendoza 4, Corilla 2, Diego 2, Pascua 1, Aguas 0, Guzman 0, King 0, Neri 0, Serrano 0.
Quarterscores: 29-16, 39-31, 67-52, 87-71
MIT (69) - Oraeme 16, Eriobu 13, Isit 8, Menina 8, Serrano 8, Victoria 6, Estrella 4, Bunag 2, Orquina 2, Raflores 2, Aguirre 0.
CSB (59) - Haruna 11, Castor 10, Leutcheu 10, Young 10, Domingo JJ 7, Belgica 6, Dixon 3, Pasamante 2, Pajarillaga 0, Pili 0, Saavedra 0, Suarez 0.
Quarterscores: 11-18, 31-29, 50-46, 69-59