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Cards face narrow defeat against Red Lions, 67-73

Article by: Maurine Claire F. Kim
Graphics by: Cassius Klai C. Francisco and Kristin Clarisse H. Mateo

The final four campaign of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Season 97 Basketball Tournament between the Mapúa Cardinals and San Beda University (SBU) Red Lions forced a close battle as the Cardinals gave in to exhaustion during overtime, 67-73, last May 8 at the Filoil Flying V Centre.

At the start of the game, the two teams aimed to limit each other’s offense. With the Cardinals’ unrelenting contests evenly matching the tenacious denials of the Lions, the all-out defensive gameplay was reflected in the game stats. Both teams had difficulties finding open baskets as seen in the yellow jerseys yielding twice as much as the Red Lions in the opening quarter, 12-6.

The court was cold on the baskets entering the following quarter. The Cards, who secured their last few games by racking up shots from outside the three-point line, were consistently opposed by the Lions who were known for their efficiency in guarding the trey. With that, the red and gold squad had to count on wingbeat ball movements and points from the perimeter. Coming off the bench, Red Lion James Kwekuteye poured in baskets to catch up to the Muralla-based team, ending the first half in a tie, 25-25.

The Mapúa ballers earned an advantage during the third quarter using back-to-back opportunities. They rode the momentum up to the beginning of the quarter, earning the biggest lead of the entire game with 10 points, coming off the intermission.

King Cardinal Warren Bonifacio kept his flock afloat during the third quarter with mid-range shots and points from free throws. Meanwhile, Shooting Guard Brian Lacap was a magnet for earning and delivering charity shots. The Cardinals finished the quarter with an eight-point lead, 41-33.

The tide turned during the last quarter. Six minutes in, Forward Arvin Gamboa experienced leg cramps and remained out of the court for the remainder of the regulation. The shield that the Cardinals Head Coach Randy Alcantara strategized was dented, allowing the Lions to capitalize on the holes in the Cards’ defense.

As the fourth-quarter clock expired, the Red Lions clawed their way during clutch, allowing for overtime. Shooting Guard Paolo Hernandez was unable to anticipate a lay-up off the rebound by SBU’s Ralph Penuela. The shot clock shooting by the Lions tied the score with less than three seconds on the game clock, 60-60.

With the Intramuros-based and Mendiola-based teams refusing to back down, the deadlock forced the first overtime of NCAA Season 97. Red Lions’ buzzer-beater became the catalyst that led to the Cardinals’ defeat last Sunday.

With time running out, the Cardinals pulled desperate three-point shots and tried to attract fouls in hopes of getting free throws. Three minutes left in the overtime; the score was tied at 64.

The SBU athletes landed a chance three-pointer while MU’s Toby Agustin's hopeful reply bounced off the ring. The gap between the team scores widened, giving San Beda more breathing room to make mistakes while the Cardinals were punished for theirs. In just five minutes of the overtime, San Beda grabbed 13 points to Mapúa’s seven, 67-73.

Both teams were relentless in their defense as no easy baskets were given throughout the day. The two teams were only successful for less than 50% of their field goal attempts. For Mapúa, this is the first game where a crowd is allowed to watch in the arena while it is the third time for San Beda.

Bonifacio was the highest scorer of the game with 18 points and 13 boards. Hernandez followed with 14 points, seven rebounds, and two assists, while Lacap earned 12 points, six rebounds, and four assists.

Meanwhile, the Kwekuteye chipped in 17 points and one rebound as his teammates Jacob Cortez and Penuela scored 13 points each and four and two rebounds, respectively.

Armed with a twice-to-beat advantage, the Cardinals are left with their last and only lifeline after the clash. With the playing field now even, they enter a do-or-die game and both teams face the threat of elimination in the series.

The Mapúa Cardinals will attempt to bounce back tomorrow, May 11, at 3:00 PM, in a sudden deathmatch with the San Beda Red Lions, at the same arena. The winner in the said game will face another daring challenge in the form of the still-undefeated Letran Knights on May 15.

The succeeding games will continue to air on GTV with live streaming on the social media platforms of NCAA Philippines and GMA Sports PH.

The Scores:
MU 67 – Bonifacio 18, Hernandez 14, Lacap 12, Nocum 9, Agustin 5, Gamboa 4, Salenga 4, Garcia 1, Pido 0, Asuncion 0, Mercado 0
SBU 73 – Kwekuteye 17, Cortez 13, Penuela 13, Bahio 9, Alfaro 9, Cometa 3, Jopia 2, Sanchez 2, Abuda 2, Amsali 2, Gallego 1, Cuntapay 0, Andrada 0, Fornis 0, Ynot 0
Quarter Scores: 12-6, 25-25, 41-33, 60-60, 67-73

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