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Cards conquer Golden Stags to open campaign in NCAA 99, 80-70

Article by: Albert L. Dela Cruz and Princess Jazlyn B. Pereda
Graphics by: Ma. Alyssa Therese S. Manalang
Photo by: Angelica Stacy D. de Guzman

With a final score of 80-70, the Mapúa Cardinals secured their first win in their first match of the first elimination round of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Season 99 Senior Men’s Basketball Tournament after taking down the San Sebastian-College-Recoletos Golden Stags in a thrilling match last September 26, at the FilOil EcoOil Arena.

The first quarter went off to an intense start as players tried to pour bucket after bucket   for their respective teams. Paolo Hernandez wasted no time to score the first basket with an attack to the basket from the baseline. Meanwhile, returning Cardinal Clint Escamis acquired two more points from the charity line. As the Cards strived to  find the right rhythm, they attempted to shoot three-pointers beyond the arc, but as the quarter drew to a close, the Intramuros-based team trailed behind by six points to the opposing team, 12-18.

Down by a double-digit advantage, the Cards refused to fall behind further as an outside shot from Hernandez ignited their momentum, followed by back-to-back shots from Escamis, John Christopher Recto, and Jopet Soriano. As they aimed to close the gap, Ryle Rosillo managed to steal the ball from the Stags, sparking an offensive strategy for their team. With his assistance, Recto executed a swift follow-up which narrowed the point gap. With only 1:24 minutes left,  Escamis performed a quick steal and a precise pass to Ferdie Asuncion, converting the opportunity into two crucial points that handed the Cardinals a one-point lead. With an opportunity to further the team’s advantage, Team Captain Warren Bonifacio also sank multiple free throws with ease. With only a few seconds left on the clock, Escamis took advantage of another fast break opportunity, maintaining their lead and providing a buffer against the opponent's last-minute shot, 39-36.

Determined to further their advantage, the Mapúaballers wasted no time in adding points into their tally. Escamis and Recto orchestrated consecutive fast break opportunities, effectively communicating with Bonifacio who added four points to their score to execute an impressive 8-0 run  giving them an 11-point lead to start the second half. The Cards continued their built momentum and dominated the third quarter. At the 3:24 mark, they established a 14-point advantage built on consistent  shooting and steadfast defense, resulting in a 12-point cushion, 57-45.

The fourth quarter started with Recto adding two more points to the 12-point lead to pull away. While the Stags attempted to lessen the gap, the red and gold squad maintained a steady lead. With the tenacity of all players in defensive situations, lapses that occurred were made up for with hustle and grit, resulting in multiple fast-break opportunities. With only a few seconds left, Bonifacio positioned himself beyond the arc to seal the last quarter with a three-pointer, marking an 80-70 victory.

Both rookies and seasoned players showed up to open their campaign on the right foot. King Cardinal Warren Bonifacio led the squad with 16 points  coupled with eight rebounds, two blocks, and three steals. Reliable Cardinal rookie JC Recto also teased a double-double, finishing the game with 15 points and nine boards, followed by Escamis and Hernandez who chipped in 12 points apiece.

Meanwhile, Rafael Are led the Stags with 18 points, while Raymart Escobido and Romel Calahat contributed 13 and 10 points, respectively.

In a post-game interview, Head Coach Randy Alcantara shared the strategy behind their outstanding performance, “for one we started slow […] daming turnovers, normal yon, lahat excited […] sabi ko nga wag kayo mawawala sa focus, stick sa gameplan at sa defensive rotations.” Following their mentor’s advice, the team forced the opponents to 26 turnovers and the team converted those into 24 easy points.

The Mapúa Cardinals are set to face the San Beda University Red Lions today, September 29, at 4:00 PM, at the same arena. Upcoming games will also be streamed live on the social media platforms of NCAA Philippines and GMA Sports PH, along with a telecast on GTV. Tickets can also be purchased at the venue’s ticketing booth.

The Scores:
MU 80 – Bonifacio 16, Recto 15, Escamis 12, Hernandez 12, Soriano 8, Cuenco 6, Rosillo 5, Dalisay 3, Asuncion 2, Bancale 1, Morenos 0, Fornis 0
SSC-R 70 – Are 18, Escobido 13, Calahat 10, Desoyo 9, Felebrico 6, Una 5, Gabat 4, De Leon 3, Shanoda 2, Sumoda 0, Gubat 0, Aguilar 0
Quarter Scores: 12-18, 39-36, 57-45, 80-70
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