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Cardinals stay grounded, hungry

Despite being tagged as a title contender, Mapua University will be both humble and hungry when it sees action in Season 98 National Collegiate Athletic Association men’s basketball tournament.

Cardinals coach Randy Alcantara said their fruitful campaign in Season 97 is already a thing of the past as they are now focused on winning the crown for the first time since 1991.

The long-range program that Alcantara plotted for the Cardinals is starting to come into fruition.

Despite losing to Letran College in a dramatic best-of-three finals series last May, the Cardinals had another fruitful stint in the Philippine Basketball Association D-League Aspirants Cup.

Playing under the banner of Marinerong Pilipino, the Cardinals pushed EcoOil-La Salle to the limit before surrendering in a best-of-three title affair.

With a pair of finals stints, and reigning NCAA Most Valuable Player Rhenz Abando bringing his talent to South Korea, the road is now wide open for the Cardinals to win the title.

After all, they will parade an intact roster bannered by Season 97 Most Improved Player Paolo Hernandez, Warren Bonifacio and Brian Lacap together with the chemistry they forged since their junior days.

But Alcantara brushed off the preseason tag, saying that they still have to work hard to win the title.

“We got the experience but there’s no assurance we can get back to the finals,” said Alcantara, who guided the Red Robins to two titles.

“We have to work our way back to it in every game and in every possession.”

The Cardinals shocked the league when they clinched the second seed with a 7-2 win-loss record to earn a twice-to-beat advantage in the Final Four of Season 97.

Mapua edged San Beda University in the semifinals to get into the finals for the first time in 27 years before losing to Letran in two games.

Alcantara believes that they are hungrier, more motivated to win.

“Everyone is hungry to get back,” he said.

“We can’t be overconfident here. We need to work our way every possession and we can’t underestimate any teams here.”

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