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Mapua returns to NCAA Finals after pipping CSB

Pao Hernandez led the way for finals-bound Mapua. NCAA
By Ivan Saldajeno

SAN FERNANDO, Pampanga--Mapua punched the first seat in the NCAA men's basketball finals after trampling College of St. Benilde, 78-67, in the first semifinals on Tuesday at the SM Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay.

The Cardinals, who were overlooked by many during the preseason after crashing to the bottom of the Season 98 standings last year but soared their way to the top seed in the Season 99 Final Four, quickly deposed the Blazers, tagged as favorites to win it all but settled for the fourth seed after the eliminations, in just one game to get a shot at ending 32 years of frustrations.

Mapua pulled away late after going on a 14-2 run within the final 4:19 of the game to end CSB's season after the latter retook the lead one last time at 65-64 with 4:41 left.

Pao Hernandez led the Cardinals, who made the finals for the second time in three seasons, with 22 points, three rebounds, four assists, and three steals.

Clint Escamis, the presumptive regular season MVP, added 21 points, eight rebounds, four assists, and two steals.

Migs Oczon led the Blazers with 17 points, six rebounds, and one assist.

Will Gozum, last season's MVP, was held to only nine points with seven rebounds and two assists in his final collegiate game.

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

CSB 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

Quarterscores: 14-18; 34-37; 56-55; 78-67

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