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Cards overwhelm Stags to finish NCAA 98 campaign strong, 75-67

Article by: Alexandra Isabelle G. Delavin and Princess Jazlyn B. Pereda
Photos by: Kristin Clarisse H. Mateo

Determined to win in their last match in the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Season 98 Men’s Basketball Tournament, the Mapúa Cardinals took command of the San Sebastian College – Recoletos (SSC-R) Golden Stags in the last quarter, 75-67, to end the season with a victory, last November 23, at the Filoil EcoOil Centre.
The first quarter started off slow as both teams struggled to score after constantly denying each other’s shot attempts. While the Intramuros-based team continued to suffer a rough patch in pouring in baskets, Guard/Forward Toby Bryan Agustin attempted to reset their gameplay by delivering a three-pointer and earning two points from the charity line, contributing a total of five points. While the Cards tried to establish their rhythm after repeatedly stealing the ball from the Stags, they still experienced drought as they trailed by 13 points at the end of the quarter, 6-19.

Keen on scratching the double-digit disadvantage, the Cards opened the second quarter with Shooting Guards Paolo Hernandez and Jasper Salenga scoring back-to-back baskets and a three-pointer, respectively. Starting on the right foot, the yellow jerseys unleashed a 13-3 run as they continued to gain momentum throughout the quarter, eventually catching up to the Stags. Forward Jopet Soriano, Point Guard Jeric James Pido, and Hernandez joined in a fastbreak opportunity that resulted in a layup, handing Mapúa a short-lived advantage. With 23 points scored in the second period, the Cards trimmed down the opponents’ lead and ended the first half with a three-point deficit, 29-32.

With the mission to lead the ball on their side, Hernandez performed a quick pass to Bonifacio to score their first basket in the third frame, while Shooting Guard Adrian Clarence Nocum continued their offensive gameplay by penetrating the opponents’ defense to score another bucket. While the red jerseys scored a trey for a 10-point gap against the Cards at the 1:20 mark, Shooting Guard Marc Cyrus Cuenco and Salenga answered back with a three-pointer and an easy two to quickly cut the deficit down to only a single-digit setback, 46-51.

With only a quarter left to find their groove, Hernandez kickstarted their late game rally with a trey, followed by Pido’s escape from the opponents’ defense to score another for the team. The Cards continued with their defensive strategy with Salenga converting two free throws to reduce the opponents’ lead down to one. The Cards took over in the last quarter, marking one after another to fend off the Stags, as Nocum performed a fast layup to give the lead back to Mapúa Finally on the right track, the Cards ended their season with an eight-point advantage over the Stags as Hernandez closed the fourth quarter with a three-point shot, 75-67.

Best Player of the Game Hernandez took charge of his team by delivering 22 markers, eight boards, five assists, and two blocks. Following him was Nocum with 17 points and four rebounds, while Salenga chipped in 14 points, four rebounds, and an assist.

Meanwhile, Ichie Altamirano led the Stags with 24 points, four rebounds, and three assists, while Romel Calahat and Rafael Are contributed 13 and nine points, respectively.

Looking back at their whole journey, Head Coach Randy Alcantara shared that despite the pitfalls during the first round, the team still rose above. “Hindi man kami pinalad dun sa Final Four, pero dapat yung last game namin talagang ipakita namin na meron naman talaga kami ibubuga,” he noted.

Tied with the Arellano University Chiefs and University of Perpetual Help System DALTA Altas, the red and gold team ended their campaign with a 7-11 win-loss record. Meanwhile, the SSC-R Golden Stags finished with an 8-10 win-loss slate. 

Moving forward, graduating Cardinals Pido, Salenga, and Forward Arvin Gamboa played their last game for the home team as they will be bidding farewell to the Intramuros-based squad after this season, while former Red Robin Clint Escamis will be joining the roster next campaign after a year with the University of the East Red Warriors. 

The end of their NCAA tournament will allow the Mapúa Cardinals to focus on the ongoing 2nd Philippine University Basketball League, which started last November 19 at the Technological University of the Philippines (TUP). Aside from TUP, four more participating schools, namely the University of Perpetual Help System DALTA, Philippine Christian University, Asian Institute of Maritime Studies, and Bataan Peninsula State University are part of the league.

The Scores:
MU 75 —Hernandez 22, Nocum 17, Salenga 14, Bonifacio 7, Agustin 5, Cuenco 3, Igliane 3, Pido 2, Soriano 2, Garcia 0, Mercado 0, Gamboa 0, Lacap 0. 
SSC-R 67 — Altamirano 24, Calahat 13, Are 9, Una 9, Aguilar 4, Villapando 2, Sumoda 2, Escobido 2, Suico 2, Paglinawan 0, Concha 0, Cosari 0.
Quarter Scores: 6-19, 29-32, 46-51, 75-67

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