MAPUA showed its top-notch facility when it hosted the second installment of the NCAA On Tour at its Intramuros campus on Thursday.
But more than the playing venue, the Cardinals also displayed their big fighting hearts as they had to make do with a depleted lineup against a hungry Perpetual Help side.
In the end, the Cardinals fell short, 64-60, despite a boisterous crowd cheering them on. Yet despite the loss, the team earned praise from no less than its head coach, Atoy Co, the former Mapua great.
"(I'm) happy. At least the boys really put their hearts out. They fight to the end," said Co of the Cardinals who fell to a 1-2 record.
In front of a nationally-televised game, Mapua proudly showed off its facility gleaming with a pristine floor.
Players and fans from both sides were also comfortable due to venue’s proper air-conditioning, which Perpetual Help coach Jimwell Gican even described as "parang nasa North Pole."
"Actually, it is newly-renovated," said Co. "When I got here five years ago, we started renovating the floor. In between the five years, nagkaroon din ng re-polishing. So far, maganda ang maintenance. I'm also strict sa mga players not to wear leather shoes (when stepping on the floor).”
Aside from the venue, of course, Co was proud of the efforts of the Cardinals.
Mapua actually held a 54-51 lead on an Almel Orquina triple, but failed to hang on and collapsed. AJ Coronel sank a pressure-packed three that put the Altas in front for good, 57-56.
"Hindi lang gym kundi 'yung puso na lumamang kami, muntik na manalo. Breaks of the game. Talagang kulang kami sa manpower, pero sa linaro namin, wala na akong mahahanap pa," said the basketball great.
Co, however, said it would have been better if the Cardinals came out with the win on their home floor. He cited a turnover made by Andoy Estrella late in the game that led to Perpetual Help hitting crucial free throws down the stretch.
"The problem was there are some players who still want to take the credit. There is nothing wrong with that, but you have to look at the situation, whether you can take it or you can make it. For me, you still have to read the defense and then you do your offense. I just hope they will be more matured," Co said.
"Sana maglaro pa sila ng much better, much matured, si Andoy, less na magtapon ng bola. He likes to take responsibility, pero dapat nasa tamang lugar, hindi 'yung basta gagawin lang," added the Mapua coach.