MANILA, Philippines - Mapua made key stops in the fourth quarter as it turned back Perpetual Help, 74-71, yesterday to put on hold the Altas' Final Four march while keeping its flickering semis hopes alive in the 88th NCAA men's basketball tournament at The Arena in San Juan City.
"Our goal is to just give it all in our last games and I’m happy we came through with a win on this," said Mapua coach Chito Victolero. "It really feels good to know there is still a chance to make it to the Final Four."
The Cardinals improved to 6-9 for solo sixth and must sweep its last three games and hope that at least two from Perpetual Help, Jose Rizal U and Letran won’t go over nine wins to force a playoff for the last semis seat.
The Altas, who beat the Cardinals, 94-88, in the first round, dropped to joint fourth with Letran at 9-6 with JRU just behind at 8-6.
San Beda and San Sebastian are a cinch for the top two spots with 12-2 and 11-4 slates, respectively.
Perpetual, however, placed the game under protest after Anthony Paulino signed the scoresheet and Perpetual's athletic director Moses Lozada filed it although coach Aric del Rosario said he was against the move.
In the nightcap, Jose Rizal survived St. Benilde, 62-56, to gain a share of third spot with Perpetual Help and Letran on 9-6 slates.
The Blazers fell to their 11th loss against four wins.
"I really don't like protests. If we lost, we lost," said del Rosario, who was slapped a technical foul for excessive objections to the calls in the last two minutes of the contest.
Jonathan Banal paced the Cardinals with 21 points, including five down the stretch that helped stave off a desperate comeback by the Altas.
Perpetual Help had one last chance to force overtime but Earl Thompson's three-point try failed to hit its mark at the buzzer.
Jett Vidal, the Altas’ top gun, exploded with game-high 25 points but lost steam in the end as the Cardinals clamped down on defense, forcing a turnover and forced shots.
Perpetual's Nigerian center Femi Babayemi was tossed out for elbowing Michael Abad early in the game while Mapua’s Andretti Stevens was ejected for a flagrant foul early in the second half.