MANILA, Philippines -- (UPDATED) For the first time since 1991, Mapua University headed to the NCAA finals.
Mapua outlasted San Beda University, 70-67, in their do-or-die Final 4 game on Wednesday afternoon at the FilOil Flying V Centre in San Juan to claim the second and last spot in the NCAA Season 97 finals.
There, the Cardinals will play defending champion Colegio de San Juan de Letran in the Battle of Intramuros. The Knights advanced to the finals after edging University of Perpetual Help in their own Final 4 series last Sunday.
It was a hard-earned victory for the Cardinals, who advanced to the Final 4 as the second seed but were dragged to a do-or-die game after San Beda beat them in overtime, 73-67, also last Sunday.
But they would not be denied, with Adrian Nocum and Arvin Gamboa delivering in the clutch to lift Mapua to the historic win.
The loss ends San Beda's incredible streak of 14 consecutive finals appearances. The Red Lions last failed to make the finals in 2005, when they finished in seventh place.
Gamboa and Brian Lacap each scored 13 points for Mapua, while Paolo Henrnadez had 11 points. Senior captain Warren Bonifacio had eight points and six rebounds, and Nocum finished with seven points and seven boards.
The Cardinals made the biggest plays down the stretch of a nip-and-tuck ball game that featured six deadlocks and seven lead changes, with Nocum breaking the final deadlock with a booming triple from the left wing that gave Mapua a 64-61 lead with 2:29 to go.
JB Bahio answered for San Beda, but Hernandez scooped in a layup for a 66-63 count with 1:52 left. James Kwekuteye again cut the deficit to one point with his own bucket that made it 66-65, with still 1:33 to play.
A traveling violation by Canlas with 43 ticks left gave Mapua a chance to pad their lead, and they made the most of it as Gamboa took Yukien Andrada off the dribble for a layup that gave them a 68-65 advantage with just 33.7 seconds to go.
San Beda still had a chance, thanks to Ralph Penuela, who scored quickly off an inbound play to make it a one-point game with 30.7 seconds left. The Red Lions got a stop in their next possession as Nocum bricked a three, but Bonifacio was able to keep the ball in Mapua's side of the court.
Forced to foul, San Beda sent Toby Agustin to the line where he made both charities. The Red Lions had one more opportunity to tie the game, but Kwekuteye's three-pointer didn't draw iron as time expired.
Squandered in the loss was a career-best 19-point effort for Andrada, who made four of his seven three-pointers and helped San Beda surge ahead in the third quarter before the Cardinals regained their bearings.
Kwekuteye and Peter Alfaro each had 11 points in the loss.
Game 1 of the best-of-3 finals is on Sunday at the San Juan venue. Letran won the lone elimination round meeting between the two championship protagonists, 80-60.
MAPUA 70 -- Gamboa 13, Lacap 13, Hernandez 11, Bonifacio 9, Nocum 7, Pido 6, Agustin 6, Mercado 6, Salenga 0, Garcia 0.
SAN BEDA 67 -- Andrada 18, Kwekuteye 11, Alfaro 11, Bahio 9, Penuela 5, Abuda 3, Cuntapay 2, Cortez 2, Jopia 2, Amsali 2, Ynot 1, Sanchez 0.
Quarter-scores: 9-9, 27-24, 48-49, 70-67.