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Cards trap Red Lions in first NCAA 98 match, 66-55

Article by: Reine Amabel J. Jaruda and Crismhil S. Anselmo
Graphics and photo by: Andreah Faye G. Lapinid and Kristin Clarisse H. Mateo

Kicking off their National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Season 98 campaign on a high note, the Mapúa University (MU) Cardinals triumphed over the San Beda University (SBU) Red Lions, 66-55, in their first match of the season, last September 10, at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Fresh out of their last encounter in Season 97, where the Mapúan team claimed the spot in the finals match, the Bedans were out of for revenge as they upped their defenses against the Cardinals. Yet, even with a slight disadvantage in the first few minutes of the first quarter, the Cards were able to catch up during the three-minute mark. With Shooting Guard Carl Brian Lacap’s three-pointer, followed by succeeding baskets from Shooting Guard Jasper Salenga and surprise starter Jomer Mercado, the home team cornered the opponent with five points over, 18-13.

Entering the second quarter with fortified defenses, the Cards consistently blocked the attempts of the Red Lions to pour in points. Shooting Guard Paolo Jose Hernandez, through an assist from Forward Arvin Gamboa, started to widen the gap with a shot from the rainbow country. The Intramuros–based squad pinned down their opponent as they managed to clinch a five-point until the last two minutes of the frame. Garnering a total of 11 points paired with a buzzer-beater shot from Salenga, the yellow jerseys ended the first half with an eight-point lead, 31-23.

As the third quarter kicked off, the Mendiola-based squad attempted to close the gap with back-to-back three-pointers at the start of the quarter, but the Mapúa ballers maintained their momentum by balancing their defensive and offensive play. Point Guard Enrico Joaquin Garcia challenged the opponents further with a long two followed by a three-pointer that secured them a dominant advantage. The Red Lions were denied any chance of recovery as the gap widened by 17 points as the quarter ended at 54-37.

Despite the red jerseys’ amplified offense in the last quarter, any attempts at a comeback were simply too late. Gamboa’s back-to-back shots kept up the Cards’ morale and rhythm as they continued to overpower the Mendiola-based squad with a double-digit lead. In the last few minutes, the Red Lions were unable to recover from their deficit, allowing the Cards to officially drive the lions to the den and ended the first game in the first round of eliminations with an 11-point lead, 66-55.

Cardinals’ Head Coach Randy Alcantara shared his appreciation towards the Mapúa ballers for following the game plan and noted the collective effort that went into marking their first win of the season. A historic win that marked the Red Lions’ first loss in an opening day game since 2006. 

When asked about his thoughts on their win against the Red Lions, Coach Alcantara stated that they must work hard during practice every day and show what the team is capable of. “Kailangan namin trabahuhin every single day sa practice at saka ipakita namin sa game kung ano talaga ‘yung kakahayan namin at ipakita sa lahat na kaya naming maulit ‘yung nagawa namin at malampasan [pa],” he stated.

Player of the Game Gamboa led the red and gold squad with 12 points and two assists. Lacap added 11 points and one assist while Garcia chipped in 10 points, two assists, and one steal.

In a post-game interview, Gamboa mentioned how they anticipated their match against SBU, knowing that the latter was gearing up for a re-match with them. The game would be definitive to their following matches as he noted that “Alam naming gigil sila bumawi itong game na ‘to so nakuha namin ‘yung pagiging tone setter siya sa amin. Nagbibigay siya [San Beda’s eager to win] sa’min ng boost ng confidence.”

Meanwhile, Red Lion James Kwekuteye tallied 15 points and one assist. Fellow teammates JB Bahio and Ralph Penuela contributed nine and eight points, respectively.

The Cards will go up against the Lyceum of the Philippines Pirates for their second battle on September 14, Wednesday, at the Filoil EcoOil Centre. Succeeding basketball tournaments will be held every Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday at the same venue, with live streaming on the social media platforms of NCAA Philippines and GMA Sports PH.

The Scores:
MU 65 – Gamboa 12, Lacap 11, Garcia 10, Salenga 7, Hernandez 6, Bonifacio 6, Nocum 4, Pido 2, Soriano 2, Agustin 2, Mercado 2, Gamboa 2, Cuenco 0 
SBU 55 – Kwekuteye 15, Bahio 9, Penuela 8, Visser 6, Sanchez 6, Cortez 5, Cuntapay 4, Jopia 2, Alfaro 0, Cometa 0, Ynot 0, Andrada 0
Quarter Scores: 18-13, 31-23, 54-37, 66-55
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