By Kristina Caramel Sy
Manila, Philippines- The Mapua Cardinals registered their first win in the NCAA Season 89 at the expense of the San Sebastian College Golden Stags with a final score of 104-99 via 2 OTs.
Coach Atoy Co was very grateful to see his boys perform well in this game despite being generally a younger squad compared to the San Sebastian Stags.
The Stags dominated the 1st half. They listed a double digit advantage at halftime, 45-31.
The Stags appeared to be unstoppable as they continued to stretch their lead to 20 points during the 6:34 mark of the 3rd, 57-37 courtesy of three key players Jovit dela Cruz, Jaymar Perez and Leo de Vera.
But the Mapua Cardinals trimmed down their 20 point deficit and tied the game at the earlier part of the 4th quarter. That energized the Cardinals to further tighten up their defense on the Stags. A lot of lead changes and deadlocks of scores happened in the last 10 minutes of the ball game.
During the final crucial seconds of the match, coach Atoy Co entrusted the last play to Kenneth Ighalo, who produced 21 points, 16 rebounds and 3 assists. Unfortunately, the Cardinals' team captain failed to sink the shot that resulted to an overtime game.
The Stags tried to bring back the momentum to their side as Jovit dela Cruz started the OT with back-to-back baskets. However, Joseph Eriobu, the best player of the game who registered big double double, 30 points and 11 rebounds, gave Mapua a chance by dominating in the first OT using his blazing offensive prowess. He led the Cardinals to force another OT.
In the 2nd OT, the Cardinals took advantage of Jaymar Perez and Bradwyn Guinto who went out of the game due to foul trouble. They secured most baskets without those 2 players en-route to their first win in the Season.
Coach Atoy Co revealed in the post game interview that he always highlight in their practices the importance of runs and composure in tough moments.
"I'm always reminding the boys na para manalo kami, we have to make a run. But minsan, dahil yung team namin ay still young, bata pa, more than half of the team are rookies tapos yung mga sophomores ko walang exposure on the other year so I considered them as rookies. Kaya medyo from distance, lagi silang Kangkarot, natataranta. I always remind them na focus focus focus tayo as long as alam natin yung sistema, we ahould not be scared of the other team" said Coach Co.