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NCAA: Mapua ends 11-game skid

Mapua's Laurenz Victoria drives against Benilde's Eric Pili  (MB photo | Rio Leonelle Deluvio)

Mapua’s Laurenz Victoria drives against Benilde’s Eric Pili (MB photo | Rio Leonelle Deluvio)

Games Today
(The Arena, San Juan City)
8 a.m. – Perpetual vs JRU (Jrs)
10 a.m. – EAC vs Letran (Jrs)
12 noon – Perpetual vs JRU (Srs)
2 p.m. – EAC vs Letran (Srs)
4 p.m. – Lyceum vs SSCR (Srs)
6 p.m. – Lyceum vs SSCR (Jrs)

Finally, a sigh of relief.

That came when Mapua snapped an agonizing 11-game losing skid as the Cardinals turned back the College of St. Benilde Blazers, 79-69, in the 93rd NCAA men’s basketball tournament yesterday at The Arena in San Juan City.

Already out of the Final Four race, the Cardinals showed steely resolve, coming through with big plays at the crunch to clinch their second victory in 14 games.

And Mapua legendary coach Atoy Co was again grinning from ear to ear after ending the school’s misery.

“We just kept on practicing. Laban lang ng laban,” said Co, whose last victory came at the expense of Letran, 78-75, last July 11 off a game-winning basket from Andoy Estrella.

“I was able to prove na kahit 8 to 9 players lang meron ako, basta merong kumpiyansa at kondisyon, pwede pa rin kaming manalo,” Co added.

Trailing 69-67 in the last 3:23 of the game, Mapua held St. Benilde scoreless while draining 12 straight points – thanks to the gutsy effort of Laurenz Victoria.

Victoria went on to finish with 19 points – seven in the pivotal period – aside from posting four rebounds and seven assists for the Cardinals.

Aside from rediscovering their form, the Cardinals also avenged their 74-69 first-round loss to the Blazers.

Denniel Aguirre was one rebound shy from completing a double-double for Mapua as he fired 15 points while JP Nieles and Cedric Pelayo chipped in 11 points apiece.

Christian Bunag took charge of Mapua’s defensive end by collaring 16 rebounds.

St. Benilde led by as many as 10 points, 49-39, early in the second period but Mapua crawled its way back into the contest.

The Blazers fell to 3-11.

First Game
MAPUA 79 – Victoria 19, Aguirre 15, Gabo 11, Nieles 11, Pelayo 11, Buñag 6, Estrella 3, Orquina 2, Raflores 1.

ST. BENILDE 69 – Leutcheu 18, Naboa 12, San Juan 11, Domingo 6, Dixon 5, Belgica 4, Johnson 4, Pili 3, Castor 2, Sta. Maria 2, Mercado 2. Quarters: 20-17, 37-42, 53-55, 79-69.