MANILA, Philippines – The Mapua Cardinals eliminated Emilio Aguinaldo College (EAC) from the Final Four race on Friday with a 74-65 trouncing of the Generals in the 86th NCAA men’s basketball at the The Arena in San Juan City.
Erwin Cornejo led the way for the Cardinals with 13 points, 5 rebounds and 5 assists to help Mapua win over the Generals.
The Cardinals, who solidified its fourth place in the league standings, also received plenty of help from Allan Mangahas, who registered 12 points, 3 rebounds and 5 assists.
Mapua shrugged off a slow start after suffering a miserable shooting in the first quarter where it only scored 8 points against EAC’s 17.
“Noong una, medyo relaxed kami. Sabi ni coach, hindi dapat kami ganoon, kasi every game naghahabol kami,” said Cornejo.
With urgency, the Cardinals came back strong in the second quarter to hold the Generals down to just 6 points. Half-time scores were 33-23 with Mapua in the lead.
The Cardinals widened their lead to 16 points, 59-43, in the third quarter by controlling the boards and taking advantage of the Generals’ smaller line-up.
The closest EAC got to Mapua in the fourth quarter was when Emilian Vargas hit back-to-back shots, one through a drive to the basket and the other, a gunner beyond the arc. This brought the Cardinals’ lead down to 9 points, 68-59, with 4:10 minutes remaining.
However, the Generals went downhill from there when they were held scoreless for 3 crucial minutes.
By the time EAC’s Jan Jamon scored a quick 2 in the final 60-seconds, Mapua was already enjoying a 10-point cushion, 73-63.
Blazers trip Chiefs
The St. Benilde Blazers, meanwhile, kept their Final Four bid alive with a 71-69 victory over the Arellano Chiefs in the first game.
Mark de Guzman led St. Benilde with 19 points and 3 rebounds.
Despite the win, St. Benilde (4-8) is still behind Arellano (4-7) and Letran (4-7) in the standings at 6th place.