Mapua sets up ‘Battle of Intramuros’ vs Letran in return to finals after 31 years

Published May 11, 2022, 7:02 PM

by Reynald I. Magallon

Photo from GMA NCAA

Mapua returns to the NCAA Finals for the first time in 31 years after taking down San Beda, 70-67, in their sudden-death semifinals match Wednesday, May 11 at the FilOil Flying V Arena in San Juan.

Arvin Gamboa, Paolo Hernandez and Adrian Nocum delivered huge baskets in the final five minutes before Toby Agustin cooly sank pressure-packed free throws in the final six seconds to power the Cardinals past the galant Red Lions and arrange an exciting “Battle of Intramuros” against the still undefeated Letran Knights in the finals.

Mapua finally got a shot for another championship for the first time since it won back-to-back titles in 1991, all while halting a 14 straight finals appearance for San Beda in the process.

Gamboa posted a double-double of 13 points and 11 rebounds including a crucial layup that gave the Cardinals a precarious three-point cushion 68-65 with 33 seconds left.

Brian Lacap added 13 points while Paolo Hernandez added 11 markers.

“Masaya kasi nakuha namin tong panalo sa San Beda pero gaya ng sinasabi ko, talagang nagtrabaho yung mga players so kini-credit ko to sa mga players ko,” said coach Randy Alcantara who was incidentally part of the last championship team of Mapua under coach Joel Banal.

“Alam naman natin na di ganun kadali talunin ang San Beda kaya natutuwa ako sa players ko at trinabaho nila ang game na ito,” he added.

Game 1 of the NCAA Finals will be on Sunday, May 15.

It was a nip-and-tuck affair in the final frame with both squads still tied at 61-all with a little over three minutes left in the game.

Nocum then buried a booming left wing triple that shoved the Cardinals ahead 64-61. JP Bahio retaliated with an undergoal stab but Hernandez nailed an off-balanced jumper to keep the three-point cushion.

San Beda had the chance to retake the lead after James Kwekuteye scored on a layup before they forced a stop on the other end. The Mapua defense then held on and forced a turnover on Kwekuteye which led to the Gamboa layup.

Ralph Penuela tried to pump some life to the Red Lion Hopes with a quick conversion but was easily negated by Agustin’s free throws.

On the other end, Kwekuteye came up short on his last second three-point try, sealing the victory for the Cardinals.

Rookie Yukien Andrada showed poise, delivering 19 points for San Beda while Kwekuteye and Peter Alfaro added 11 markers each which all went for naught as they fell short of arranging a rematch of the Season 95 finals against Letran.

The scores:
Mapua (70) — Gamboa 13, Lacap 13, Hernandez 11, Bonifacio 8, Nocum 7, Pido 6, Agustin 6, Mercado 6, Salenga 0, Garcia 0.
San Beda (67) — Andrada 19, Kwekuteye 11, Alfaro 11, Bahio 9, Penuela 5, Abuda 3, Cuntapay 2, Cortez 2, Jopia 2, Amsali 2, Ynot 1, Sanchez 0.
Quarterscores: 9-9, 27-24, 48-49, 70-67