Header Ads Widget

Cardinals end Knights reign, bolster 'F4' bid

By Ricky Manliguis

SAN JUAN, MMThe reign of Letran ends here.

Mapua boosted its Final Four chances as the Cardinals dethroned the defending champion Knights, 77-72, in the final match of Friday action of NCAA Season 92 at the FiOil Flying V Centre.

Reigning MVP Allwell Oraeme imposed his will inside, while Darell Menina fired the killer blows from downtown as the boys of Coach Atoy Co assured themselves for at least a Final Four slot to improve to a 10-5 win-loss card.

The 19-year old Nigerian behemoth fashioned out a another double-double effort of 22 points and 26 rebounds to lead three others in double digits.

Denniel Aguirre, Joseph Eriobu, and Menina contributed 12 points apiece for the Cardinals, which dominated the match-up before Letran mounted a comeback.

After Bong Quinto and JP Calvo gave the Knights a slim 62-61 lead inside the last seven minutes, Oraeme pumped in five points to give the lead back to MIT, 67-63.

Letran had one last gallant stand, forcing a 67-all standoff, as Menina then went on a shooting spree, pouring eight points, including two cold-blooded triples en route to victory.

The Knights fell to an 8-9 card and will miss the Final Four bus for the first time since 2014 with only a game to spare. Rey Nambatac cashed in 19 points seven rebounds, two assists and two steals, missing out the chance to snatch the MVP award. 

Coincidentally, it was also Letran who last made the unwanted record of reigning champions who did not make it to the postseason the following year. It failed to qualify for the postseason in 2000, a year after completing back-to-back titles in 1998 and 1999. 

Quinto had 16 and  five rebounds, while Calvo, Jerrick Balanza, and McJour Luib contributed 10 across their names. 

The scores:

Mapua 77-Oraeme 22, Aguirre 12, Eriobu 12, Menina 12, Victoria 9, Isit 6, Bunag 3, Estrella 2, Orquina 0, Raflores 0, Serrano 0.

Letran 72-Nambatac 19, Quinto 16, Balanza 10, Calvo 10, Sollano 10, Luib 3, Ambohot 2, Apreku 2, Balagasay 0, Dela Pena 0, Ular 0.

Quarterscores: 15-7; 39-29; 60-49; 77-72.

Follow him on Twitter: @teaching_hero