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NCAA: The Cardinals silenced the Lion's roar, took one step closer to the Crown

Updated: Apr 9

MANILA, PHILIPPINES --- The Mapua Cardinals refuted the San Beda Red Lions' comeback, 68-63, at the Mall of Asia Arena last Wednesday, December 6, in the Best-of-Three Finals of the NCAA Season 99 Men's Basketball. Inching closer to the Season 99 Cup, the Cardinals are on the verge of ending the 32-year drought and bringing home the first championship since 1991. 

The first canto was already heated as the two red teams showed their determination to get closer to the Crown. Ryle Rosillo set off with a scoop shot for the Cardinals. However, the Red Lions fearlessly answered with a floater from Yukien Andrada. The first quarter was a series of shootouts from both teams; as neither gave up ground, the first ended in an all-17 deadlock. 

The Red Lions roared and showed dominance in the first half of the second quarter with a 6-0 run as James Payosing attacked on the inside. Team captain Warren Bonifacio knocked down two free throws; Paolo Hernandez spearheaded the Cardinals’ counterattack as he landed his jumper. Marc Cuenco also did not falter as he landed his up-and-under layup. Clint Escamis joined on the board as he went 2/2 from the charity stripe and Rosillo with 1/2. The last two baskets from the first half are for the Cardinals and were delivered by Escamis. The Cardinals ended the second quarter with a 9-0 run and a 36-31 lead over the Red Lions.

During the third period, the yellow jerseys reigned over the lion’s lair as they kept the lead. The Escamis-Hernandez duo fueled the Cardinals’ offensive, ensuring their lead was up by at most 11 points. However, the Red Lions’ rising star Jacob Cortez ended San Beda’s drought with a strong finish from the inside and a long three-pointer beating the buzzer. The Cardinals still lead the ball game with 59-48. 

Hernandez opened the fourth quarter with a layup, extending the lead of the Intramuros squad to 13. However, the team from Mendiola did not stumble, launching a 7-0 run as Payosing banks his shot. Escamis delayed the Red Jerseys’ momentum with a triple. The Red Lions stood their ground, cutting the lead of the Cardinals to only a single basket after Cortez and Oliver Tagle responded with huge threes. Nonetheless, Escamis came to clutch with two from the line, sealing the win for the Cardinals, 68-63. 

Champion of the Game, Rosillo pulled through with big numbers: 15 points, seven rebounds, two assists, and two steals. Hernandez also stepped up for the Cardinals with 16 points, 12 rebounds, and two assists, earning him the Player of the Game honors. Escamis chipped in double-digits with 18 points, six rebounds, two assists, and three steals, pushing Mapua to victory. 

Payosing led the Lions with 14 points, 12 rebounds, and one assist. Jomel Puno also delivered 12 points, nine boards, and one assist. Cortez also gave the Lions 12 markers with a rebound, assist, and steal. 

“San Beda’s a tough team, they’re here for a reason,” said Escamis, frontrunner candidate for MVP. He also added, “Hindi magpapatalo o magpapatambak 'yan basta-basta” (ABS-CBN News). 

"Ini-imagine ko kung paano namin i-stop si Cortez... Kailangan manalo tayo kasi nandiyan ung mga legend (Atoy Co and Benny Cheng) nakatingin satin, nageexpect sila na gawin namin ung best sa role namin as a player" Rosillo said in a post game interview.

The Mapua Cardinals are eyeing their first championship title in 32 years, while the San Beda Red Lions are on the quest for their 22nd title and their first since the 2018 season. 

The two teams will again collide for Game 2 on Sunday, December 10, at the Mall of Asia Arena. 

The Scores:

Mapua 68 | Escamis 18, Hernandez 16, Rosillo 15, Bonifacio 15, Bonifacio 6, Recto 5, Cuenco 4, Soriano 4, Fornis 0, Dalisay 0

San Beda 63 | Payosing 14, Puno 12, Cortez 12, Andrada 8, Jopia 8, Tagle 5, Cuntapay 2, Visser 2, Alfaro 0, Gonzales 0, Royo 0, Gallego 0

End of Quarter Scores: 17-17, 36-31, 59-48, 68-63

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