Mapua University head coach Randy Alcantara feels the Cardinals’ pathetic showing last season has made them an even better team.
After finishing seventh the last time, Mapua made sure it won’t be relegated to the role of a spectator when it secured a twice-to-beat Final Four berth in Season 99 National Collegiate Athletic Association basketball tournament Wednesday at the Filoil EcoOil Centre in San Juan.
The Cardinals walloped University of Perpetual Help, 69-53, behind another splendid showing by Most Valuable Player frontrunner Clint Escamis, who led the way with 17 points, six steals, four rebounds, a block and not a single error.
“We used all the painful memories we had last season as motivation,” head coach Randy Alcantara, who also played for the school back in the 1990s, said.
But Alcantara insists the mission is far from over as the Intramuros-based team has not gotten tired of winning.
“Like I said, we haven’t proven anything. Our place in the standings can easily fade. Let’s stay focused and double our efforts,” he said.
The victory gave Mapua a grip on the solo lead on the strength of its 13-3 win-loss card.
Though Mapua is already assured of one of two twice-to-beat berths, don’t expect the Cardinals to take their last two matches against Arellano University and Jose Rizal University for granted as action in the league intensifies.
Skipper Warren Bonifacio and Jopet Soriano also made their presence felt on offense, hitting 11 and 10 points, respectively.
But none shone the brightest than Escamis.
While Mapua sparkled, Perpetual sank to its eighth defeat in as many wins and closer to the abyss as it no longer controls its Final Four fate.
Perpetual would need to sweep its last two assignments against Emilio Aguinaldo College on Saturday and San Sebastian on Tuesday and hope and pray that none of its remaining semis-seeking rivals gets to win No. 11.
Jun Roque led the Altas with 13 points and 12 boards.
In the second game, San Beda University pulled off a 65-61 squeaker over College of Saint Benilde to get back into Final Four contention behind Yulkirn Andrada’s 22 points.
The win raised the Red Lions’ record to 9-6 as they sprang back to the win column following a 71-69 defeat to Mapua a few days ago when Andrada’s triple missed the target entirely.
Andrada, however, made sure to bury the ghost of the past after leading San Beda to this massive win.
The Blazers dropped to 10-6, good for joint No. 3 with Jose Rizal University.