Letran outwits Mapua for finals berth

Dennis Acosta (file photo)
By Alex Cerado

PASAY--Colegio de San Juan de Letran escaped Mapua Cardinals, 91-90, en route to a ticket to the Finals in the NCAA Season 91 men's basketball tournament semifinals at the Mall of Asia Arena Tuesday.

"Ant-man" Mark Cruz chalked up 24 points, including 13 in the third quarter, to lead Letran as they await for their championship foe in the winner of the JRU-San Beda bout, which is being played as of posting.

Both teams traded a number of baskets in the third frame until Cruz waxed hot from downtown and bucketed three triples to pull away, 67-62.

In the fourth quarter, MVP frontrunner Allwell Oraeme kept Mapua at bay in the final 31 seconds off a putback to cut the lead to 3, 87-90.

Cardinal J.P. Nieles drilled in a three-pointer with half a second left but was not enough to beat the powerhouse Letran, 90-91.

Kevin Racal showcased a double-double performance with 19 points and 12 boards.

Exe Biteng topscored for the Cardinals with 17 markers.

It was Mapua's first Final Four appearance since 2010, while Letran had two heartbreaking finals' defeats in Season 88 and 89 before missing the championship bus last year. 

Box Scores:

Letran 91–Cruz 24, Racal 19, Sollano 16, Nambatac 12, Quinto 10, Calvo 4. Apreku 3, Luib 3, Balanza 0, Publico 0

Mapua 90–Biteng 17, Nimes 15, Menina 15, Isit 11, Oraeme 10, Nieles 10, Serrano 10, Brana 2, Aguirre 0

Quarterscores: 21-17, 45-42, 67-70, 91-90