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Cards double down on Generals, 77-67

Article by: Albert L. Dela Cruz and Robert Kobe T. Garcia
Graphics by: Andreah Faye G. Lapinid

In an attempt to stay afloat in the rankings, the Mapúa Cardinals prevailed against the Emilio Aguinaldo College (EAC) Generals, 77-67, after a third-quarter resurgence in the second round of the National College Athletic Association (NCAA) Season 98 Men’s Basketball Tournament Eliminations, last October 22, at the Filoil EcoOil Centre.
The first quarter started slow for the Cards as they struggled to find their tempo with turnovers and missed shots resulting in a three-minute drought. Seeking to find the right momentum, Captain Ball Warren Bonifacio scored the first six points for the Intramuros squad, but a barrage of baskets from the Generals, followed by a couple of fouls that gave them points from the charity stripe, kept the home team at a distance. The first quarter ended with a 15-point disadvantage for the Cards, 8-23.

Guard/Forward Toby Agustin’s jump shot earned the Cards the first three-pointer in the second quarter, followed by a foul from the white and red jerseys that put Point Guard Jeric Pido to the free throw line, earning another two points for the Mapúa ballers. As the Cards started to reacclimate in the offensive and defensive end, they sought to find their composure as woes hampered their run to keep in close contact with the Generals. They held a 13-point deficit to end the second quarter, 30-43.

Paying no attention to the double-digit disadvantage in the first half, the Intramuros-based squad sought to take the lead with better execution. This was proven true as the lead was cut down to a single digit in the first minute of the third quarter with Agustin shooting a quick two to kickstart their late-game rally. The margin trimmed down with Pido picking the General’s pocket, ensuring a fastbreak with Bonifacio converting it into an easy bucket. Not much later, Pido again stuffed an attempted jump shot, which led to Bonifacio swishing a mid-range jumper, giving the Cardinals their first lead of the game. The third frame concluded with a four-point lead in favor of the Cards, 57-53

Eager to keep the lead on their side, the last quarter got off with rookie Marc Cuenco dropping a three-point bomb. Cuenco followed up on the rim, playing a reverse layup, putting the red and gold up by nine points. The squad then maintained their advantage as they stopped at nothing to secure their third win, 77-67.

Top Scorer Bonifacio took command for the Cards with 18 points, five rebounds, and three steals. Cardinal Rising Star Cuenco, who was also named the Best Player of the Game, earned his career-high performance after putting up 16 baskets, eight boards, and two assists. Coming in close were Shooting Guard Adrian Clarence Nocum and Agustin who scored 11 and nine points, respectively.

EAC’s Nat Cosejo led the Generals with 18 points, while his teammates Adrian Balowa and Allen Liwag contributed 11 and nine points apiece.

In a post-game interview, Head Coach Randy Alcantara expressed high praise for Cuenco when asked about his recent performance. “...Pre-season palang meron na yan eh. Talagang meron [...] talent, ‘di lang sa offense pati rin sa defense yung asset nya,” He also expressed his joy in seeing all his players take part in this season. “...Yun naman talaga yung dream ng coaches eh, lahat ma-involve,” the Head Coach imparted.

While still in his first playing year, Cuenco proved to be an asset for the team with his steady presence and consistent efforts to pave the way for the Cards to surge ahead of the opposing team. Moving forward through a tough season, the Rookie shared that he became comfortable in the game, inspiring him to score bucket after bucket. “Tatrabahuhin namin at wala kami ibang goal kundi manalo every game," the Best Player of the Game shared when asked about what to expect from the home team.

After bagging their third official win of the season, the Cards tallied a 3-9 win-loss slate while the EAC Generals dropped to 1-11. Despite slowly regaining their momentum in the second round, Coach Alcantara emphasized that the continuous tactfulness and improvement of the team’s defense are still vital in their mission to climb up the standings.

Still waiting for his health results regarding his knee injury, Forward Arvin Gamboa remained on the sidelines during this match. Nonetheless, the Mapúa Cardinals will continue their quest to soar higher this season as they gear up against the University of Perpetual Help System DALTA (UPSHD) Altas tomorrow, October 25, at 12:00 PM, at the same arena.

Succeeding games are streamed live on the social media platforms of NCAA Philippines and GMA Sports PH with a telecast on GTV. Tickets can also be purchased at the venue’s ticketing booth.

The Scores:
MU 77 – Bonifacio 18, Cuenco 16, Nocum 11, Agustin, 9, Hernandez 8, Pido 6, Soriano 4, Mercado 3, Salenga 2, Lacap 0, Garcia 0, Igliane 0
EAC 67 – Cosejo 18, Balowa 11, Liwag 9, Maguiliano 7, Cosa 7, Luciano 5, Bajon 4, Tolentino 4, Umpad 2, Doria, An 0, Doria,Ad 0, Angeles 0
Quarter Scores: 8-23, 30-43, 57-53, 77-67
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