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Cards fall short against Knights in Finals Game 1, 63-68

Article by: Lea Ysabel Q. Evangelista
Graphics by: Graphics by: Cassius Klai C. Francisco and Kristin Clarisse H. Mateo

Despite pacing the match for the first three quarters, the Mapúa Cardinals failed to scratch a win from defending champion Colegio de San Juan de Letran (CSJL) Knights, 63-68, in Game 1 of the best-of-three finals of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Season 97 Basketball Tournament last May 15 at the Filoil Flying V Centre.

Carrying the pressure of a 31-year championship drought, the Cards kicked off the first quarter with a solid offensive play against the Knights. As their opponents struggled to take the lead, the red and gold squad stocked up points on their side of the board.

With less than two minutes left in the quarter, both teams played rough as fouls bounced around the court. As a result, Point Guard Jasper Salenga left the match for two unsportsmanlike fouls. Shooting Guard Toby Bryan Agustin then wrapped the first quarter with a shot under the basket, handing the Mapúa ballers a nine-point advantage, 24-15.

Shifting their attention to keeping an airtight defense, the red jerseys focused on their efforts on blocking shots from inside the perimeter of the enemy ring. Knight Brent Paraiso led the scoring for his team as he broke away from the red and gold team with fast breaks and combination plays. The Cards were momentarily weighed down as the opponent team inched closer, but Shooting Guard Paolo Hernandez restored their morale with a three-point shot. They kept the lead as the first half ended, 39-32.

Suffering from two consecutive dry spells, the Cardinals were in danger of losing their advantage as the white jerseys reared on them in the third quarter. Forward Arvin Gamboa got the ball rolling again for the team as he served a clean lay-up at 5:16. After a six-point recovery from the red and gold squad, the Knights strived to shake their momentum as Knight Rhenz Abando saved Paraiso’s failed shot. Despite a successful dunk, Abando landed on the wrong foot, forcing his time on the court to end.

Despite the disarray, the Cards maintained a healthy gap as Agustin closed the third frame with two charity balls, 54-49.

The last quarter started with a heated stare-down between Gamboa and Knights’ Louie Sangalang after a defensive play by the Cardinals where both teams were each called out for a foul. A fierce atmosphere took over the court as the Intramuros-based teams worked double to secure the first win. Captain Ball Warren Bonifacio had to leave the game as he committed his fifth foul seconds before the end of the match.

After the foul out, the Knights quickly turned the game around as the Cards scrambled to maintain their defense. The Mapúa ballers fought to maintain their lead but ended the first Battle of Intramuros in the finals with a five-point deficit, 63-68.

Bonifacio and Gamboa were the Cardinals’ highest scorers with 10 points each as well as 14 and three boards, respectively. Agustin trailed behind with nine points and three rebounds.

Meanwhile, Knights’ Paraiso and Sangalang scored 14 points each alongside five and seven rebounds, correspondingly, followed by Abando who chipped in 13 points and seven boards.

Aiming to extend the battle for the NCAA Season 97 championship, the Mapúa Cardinals will attempt to strike a win from the unblemished Letran Knights in Game 2 of the Battle of Intramuros tomorrow, May 22, at 3:00 PM, in the same venue.

Tickets for the game were sold out a day after the sales started. However, Mapúa University and the University Student Government will hold a simultaneous watch party at the Intramuros Campus Gymnasium for the first 200 registrants. The match will also air on GTV with live streaming on the social media platforms of NCAA Philippines and GMA Sports PH.

The Scores:
MU 63 – Bonifacio 10, Gamboa 10, Agustin 9, Hernandez 8, Lacap 7, Nocum 6, Mercado 5, Pido 5, Garcia 3, Salenga 0
CSJL 68 – Paraiso 14, Sangalang 14, Abando 13, Yu 6, Ambohot 6, Reyson 6, Javillonar 4, Caralipio 3, Mina 2, Olivario 0, Fajarito 0
Quarter Scores: 24-15, 39-32, 54-49, 63-68

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