MANILA — Slowly but surely, the Mapua Cardinals are recovering from an opening game debacle in the 98th Season of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament as the Intramuros-based squad notched its second straight win in 10 games for a 2-8, at the expense of front-running Lyceum of the Philippines, 62-59, at the FilOil EcoOil Centre Sunday.
The game was close as it can get all throughout and it was a sweet victory for last season’s runner-up because aside from posting its very first winning streak of the season, Mapua dealt Lyceum what could only be its third loss in 10 games (7-3).
Trailing 42-48 after three quarters, the Cardinals flipped the switch in the payoff period behind JJ Pido, Paolo Hernandez, and Warren Bonifacio to open their second-round campaign on a high note.
Still way behind in the Final Four race with a 2-8 record, Mapua, which opened the 98th Season with a convincing win that was later forfeited after allegedly fielding an illegal player, is just taking things step by step.
The Cardinals still have eight more games left in the eliminations.
“Pinaka-motivation talaga namin huwag nang lumayo pa, huwag nang tumingin sa standing namin. Iyon na lang,” said Cardinals coach Randy Alcantara.
“Gawin na lang mga assignments namin. Hindi talaga madali ang season ngayon, pahirapan ang panalo,” he added.
Pido led Mapua with 11 points and two assists while Warren Bonifacio had a double-double outing of 10 points and 14 rebounds. Rence Nocum and Joaqui Garcia also scored 10 markers.
Mac Guadaña was the lone bright spot for LPU with 15 points, three assists, and three rebounds.
The scores: First Game Mapua (62) -- Pido 11, Nocum 10, Bonifacio 10, Garcia 10, Hernandez 7, Mercado 4, Soriano 4, Cuenco 2, Parinas 2, Agustin 2, Salenga 0, Igliane 0, Lacap 0. LPU (59) -- Guadaña 15, Larupay 8, Umali 7, Bravo 6, Cunanan 6, Barba 4, Navarro 4, Montaño 4, Villegas 3, Valdez 2, Peñafiel 0, Omandac 0. Quarterscores: 12-18, 30-29, 42-48, 62-59
LPU stalwart Enoch Valdez (2) is challenged by Mapua’s Jopet Soriano (28) on his way to the basket