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NCAA: Cardinals decimate the Blazers; returns to the NCAA Season 99 Finals

The Mapua Cardinals outlasted the Benilde Blazers, 78-67, at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City in the Final Four semifinals matchup of the NCAA Season 99, Tuesday, November 28. The Cardinals are now headed back to the men’s basketball finals of the NCAA 99 after their showdown against the Letran Knights in the 97 Finals and a comeback from Season 98, which saw them win only 7 games.

The Blazers had an early 0-9 run to start the ball game. Despite the Blazers establishing their ground, JC Recto gave a three for the Cardinals; this became a headstart for the Cardinals to keep the game close, with Clint Escamis and Jopet Soriano making their baskets. The Blazers lead the Cardinals by four points, 14-18, for an intense opening period.

In the early minutes of the second quarter, the Cardinals tied with the Blazers, 18-18, dead set on changing the flow of the game. However, Miguel Oczon gave life to the Blazer’s offensive, giving the green and white a three, as they took the lead once again, 21-23. A shootout between Mapua’s shooting guard Paolo Hernandez and Benilde’s forward Miguel Corteza was seen as the quarter closed with Hernandez giving back-to-back threes for the Cardinals. But the Blazers still have the advantage, ending the second quarter with 34-37.

The third period showcased the determination of both teams as the match became more intense. Oczon led the green and white in their offense; however, Escamis and team captain Warren Bonifacio called the shots for Mapua’s counterattack. The teams from Taft and Intramuros did not hold back through their solid defense and bold offenses. The Cardinals ended the quarter leading the Blazers, 56-55.

The final quarter kicked off with Hernandez and Escamis making their long bombs. Being cornered, the Blazers needed to step up and deliver; the Oczon and Prince Carlos duo did it for the Taft squad, evening it up with the Cardinals, 64-64. However, Hernandez came with a clutch, giving the Red and Gold a crucial three-pointer. Later on in the period, the Blazers bowed down to the Cardinals as they took control of the game, 78-67.

The Clutch King Hernandez led the charge for the Cardinals with 22 points, three rebounds, four assists, and three steals. Rookie MVP frontrunner Escamis also pushed the red and gold to victory with an all-around performance of 21 points, eight rebounds, four assists, and two steals. Marc Cuenco also chipped in double digits with 10 points and five boards.

Oczon delivered for the green and white with 17 points, six rebounds, and one assist. The veteran forward Corteza also added 14 points, eight rebounds, one assist, and one steal, while Carlos put in 10 points and four rebounds.

The Benilde Blazers are eliminated from the championship title of the NCAA Season 99 and are now set to compete in a battle for third place in the hopes of a podium finish as they take on the LPU Pirates.

Two red teams are on the set for redemption, but only one will conquer in unvanquished red. The Mapua Cardinals and the San Beda Red Lions will clash on December 6, Wednesday, 2 PM at the Mall of Asia Arena for Game 1 of the NCAA Season 99 Men's Basketball Finals.

The Scores:

Mapua 78 | Hernandez 22, Escamis 21, Cuenco 10, Bonifacio 9, Soriano 6, Rodillo 4, Recto 3, Asuncion 3, Igliane 0, Fornis 0, Dalisay 0

Benilde 67 | Oczon 17, Corteza 14, Carlos 10, Gozum 9, Sangco 5, Mara 5, Turco 3, Arciaga 2, Marcos 2, Nayve 0, Cajucom 0, Marasigan 0, Davis 0

End of Quarter Scores: 14-18, 34-37, 56-55, 78-67

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