AN undermanned Mapua squad hang tough in the endgame to beat title favorite San Sebastian, 61-54, on a day of upsets in the 88th NCAA men’s basketball tournament at The Arena in San Juan.
Josan Nimes, who had been on a slump the past few games, finally showed the form that made him the Season 87 Rookie of the Year, as he took turns puncturing the Stags defense with freshman Joseph Eriobu.
Nimes finished with 15 points, seven boards and five assists, while Eriobu likewise had 15 markers, highlighted by a perfect 3-of-3 clip from two-point territory to lead the Cardinals, who missed the services of Andretti Stevens, Jumel Chien, Darell Magsigay, and Michael Abad due to various injuries.
It was the Cardinals’ defense, though, that proved to be the key in the win as the Intramuros-based squad limited the Stags to their lowest output so far this season.
San Sebastian averages a league-best 88.3 points per game prior to the match.
“Due na talaga kami manalo,” said Cardinals’ coach Chito Victolero, whose wards snapped a four-game skid and improved to 3-5. “We learned from our mistakes and gained a lot of experience.”
The Cardinals’ victory came after Arellano University pulled off a similar stunner against Perpetual Help Altas in the first game, 63-54.
The loss snapped the Stags’ six-game winning streak and dropped them down to second place in a tie with idle Jose Rizal University at 6-2.
The Cardinals defeated the erstwhile league-leaders despite the Stags parading their dreaded Big Three.
After missing the last game with a strained knee, Ian Sangalang suited up for the Stags, but was sluggish in 23 minutes of play, contributing just eight points and nine boards.
With Sangalang still not in tip-top shape, reigning MVP Calvin Abueva was forced to play without relief as he finished with 15 points, 14 rebounds, three steals, and two blocks, but his all-around showing fell short of leading his team to victory.
MAPUA (61) -- Nimes 15, Eriobu 15, Parala 14, Ighalo 4, Banal J. 4, Cantos 3, Banal G. 2, Braña 2, Saitanan 2
SAN SEBASTIAN (54) -- Abueva 15, Pascual 13, Juico 13, Sangalang 8, Maiquez 5, Miranda 0, Dela Cruz 0, Binuya 0, Antipuesto 0, Rebollos 0, Balucanag 0
Quarterscores: 10-7, 26-15, 39-30, 61-54.