MANILA, Philippines - Mapua shut down Cameroonian double-double machine Noube Happi as it walloped Emilio Aguinaldo, 80-55, to resuscitate its dying Final Four hopes in the 88th NCAA basketball tournament at The Arena in San Juan.
In the featured match, reigning champion San Beda hung tough enough in the stretch as it turned back archrival Letran, 68-62, to cling on to the solo lead.
Arthur Dela Cruz and Baser Amer fired 14 and 12 points, respectively, to seal the Lions 10th win against two losses while sending the Knights to their sixth defeat against the same number of wins.
Rookie Mark Brana came through with 15 points, Kenneth Ighalo, Mike Parala and birthday boy Gab Banal scattered 12, 10 and 10 points, respectively, while Josan Nimes did everything in a near triple-double performance of nine points, nine rebounds and seven assists to help the Cardinals move to sixth spot with a 5-7 (win-loss) slate.
It was, however, Mapua’s rock-solid interior defense centered on the 6-7 Happi that proved critical as the Cameroonian big man was held to just nine points (three-of-19 shooting), just eight boards and his season worst eight turnovers.
Going into this game, Happi averaged 18 points and 14 caroms.
“We had a defensive game plan on Happi and I’m happy it worked,” said Mapua coach Chito Victolero.
With the defensive screws tightened, the Cardinals dominated the Generals early on and led 18-9 at the end of the first quarter and 43-22 at the end of the first half.
And it was garbage time from there.
Sophomore Remy Morada, a former Energen Pilipinas standout, tried to carry the fight for EAC as he led the team with 16 points but Happi, playing his worst of the season, could not provide the backup power the team needed.
First Game (Srs)
Mapua 80 – Brana 16, Ighalo 12, Parala 10, G. Banal 10, Nimes 9, J. Banal 6, Eriobu 6, Saitanan 6, Cantos 2, Chien 2, Magsigay 2, Stevens 0, Abad 0
EAC 55 – Morada 16, King 11, Happi 9, Paguia 5, Yaya 4, Munsayac 4, Monteclaro 3, Pillas 2, Jamon 1, Tayongtong 0, Chiong 0, Sanchez 0, Acerbon 0
Quarterscores: 18-9; 43-22; 59-32; 80-55
Second Game (srs)
San Beda 68 – Dela Cruz 14, Adeogun 12, Amer 11, Dela Rosa 11, K. Pascual 8, Caram 8, Villaruz 2, J. Pascual 2, Ludovice 0, Koga 0, Lim 0
Letran 62 – Racal 14, K. Alas 14, Cruz 11, Cortes 10, Kr. Alas 6, Luib 3, Belorio 2, Almazan 2, Lituania 0, Gabawan 0
Quarterscores: 17-21; 43-32; 57-51; 68-62