By Reynald Magallon
Mapua rode on a huge fourth quarter assault to beat Lyceum, 75-65 and keep in pace with San Beda for the No. 2 spot in the NCAA Season 97 Wednesday at the La Salle Green Hills Gym.
The Cardinals stepped on the gas pedal at the start of the payoff period with Arvin Gamboa and Juaquin Garcia leading a furious 15-5 run that all but took the fight out of the Pirates.
Mapua closed out the eliminations with a 7-2 record and was already assured of at least a third seed finish.
Depending on the result of San Beda’s last assignment against Letran on Friday, Mapua can still climb up to No. 2 and clinch an outright semifinals berth along with the twice-to-beat incentive. San Beda totes a 7-1 record.
A Red Lions’ loss would have them tied with the Cardinals in the second seed with the latter taking the semis seat due to Mapua’s convincing 68-54 victory over San Beda last week.
Mapua displayed its depth with four players scoring in twin-digits led by Toby Agustin and Paolo Hernandez who had 13 points apiece.
Brian Lacap added 12 while sparkplugs Gamboa and Garcia chipped in 10 points and 11 rebounds and nine points and four assists respectively.
Hernandez said that while the Cardinals are happy to finally get a chance to make it to the Final Four, they are coming in prepared for the playoffs regardless if it’s in the play-in or in the semifinals with the twice-to-beat edge.
“Masaya kasi after ilang years pwede kaming makapasok sa Final Four or sa Finals,” said the Cardinals star. “Wala kaming inaanticipate, kumbaga kahit anong maging resulta nung game na yon [Beda-Letran], so be it. Tuloy-tuloy lang kami, kung ano yung control namin, ‘yun ‘yung gagawin namin.”
Up by only four at the start of the final frame, Garcia and Gamboa nailed back-to-back triples to erect the first double-digit spread of the game, 59-49.
Agustin then scored on a layup while Gamboa traded baskets with Omar Larupay before Garcia capped the run with a triple to pad the lead at 16, 68-52, with over five minutes left in the game.
MAPUA 75 — Hernandez 13, Agustin 13, Lacap 12, Gamboa 10, Garcia 9, Nocum 6, Bonifacio 5, Asuncion 3, Pido 2, Mercado 2, Salenga 0.
LYCEUM 65 — Barba 16, Larupay 15, Remulla 8, Cunanan 7, Navarro 6, Bravo 5, Guadana 4, Garro 3, Abadeza 1, Jabel 0, Valdez 0, Guinto 0.
Quarters: 15-17, 32-34, 53-47, 75-65.