MAPUA had just enough left in the gas tank to get to the hill of the NCAA Season 99 Finals after outlasting San Beda 68-63 in Game One of their best-of-three finals last Wednesday at the Mall of Asia Arena.

The Cardinals saw their 16 point third-quarter lead disappear late in the fourth, but regrouped to make crucial stops as Jacob Cortez and Oliver Tagle missed potential game-tying attempts with seconds remaining.

Mapua Cardinals a win away

Presumptive MVP Clint Escamis then iced the game with two free throws in the final 10 seconds as the Cardinals moved a game away from winning their first NCAA title since Benny Cheng and Chito Victolero led them to the big one in 1991 – co-incidentally against the San Beda Red Lions.

Game Two of the best-of-three finals is on Sunday at 2 p.m., also at MOA Arena.

"We’re glad na nakuha namin yung first game namin sa series, hindi naman dun natatapos, job’s not done pa, kailangan paghandaan pa namin ang Game Two. Alam namin babawi ang San Beda, kailangan maging-ready lang kami," Mapua team captain Warren Bonifacio said.

It looked like a done game for the Cardinals when they zoomed to a 16-point lead, 59-43 lead with 23 seconds left in the third period following two free-throws from Jopet Soriano.

But Cortez, who by then only had a point to his name, sparked San Beda’s comeback, scoring five straight points in a seven-second span to close out the third quarter – including a Hail Mary from near half-court – to revitalize the Red Lions entering the pay-off period.

With Cortez finding his rhythm, the Red Lions continued to pounce in the fourth – and he found help from Tagle whose five straight points with 52 seconds left in the game trimmed the Red Lion lead to just three, 66-63.

PHOTO: Patrick Romero

But that was the closest they ever got in the game, as the Cardinals locked down on their defense to close out the gritty Red Lions.

"They’re here for a reason. Hindi yan papatalo at papatambak basta-basta," said Escamis, who led Mapua with 18 points, six rebounds and three steals. "Sinabi lang namin sa group namin na composure lang ang kailangan para ma-sustain ang lead, buti kahit bumaba sa tatlo, naka-[stop] kami."

Paolo Hernandez added a double-double of 16 points and 12 rebounds while Ryle Rosillo had himself a nice finals breakout game, hounding Cortez all game long while logging 15 points and seven boards for himself.

James Payosing led the Red Lions with 14 points as Cortez added 12, but the third-year guard only made three of his 17 attempts in the game.

The scores:

Mapua 68 - Escamis 18, Hernandez 13, Rosillo 13, Bonifacio 6, Recto 5, Cuenco 4, Soriano 4, Fornis 0, Dalisay 0

San Beda 63 - Payosing 14, Cortez 12, Puno 12, Andrada 8, Jopia 8, Tagle 5, Cuntapay 2, Visser 0, Alfar 0, Gonzales 0, Royo 0, Gallego 0

Quarters: 17-17, 36-31, 59-48, 68-63

2023-12-06T10:16:13Z dg43tfdfdgfd