Mapua Cardinals avert collapse to boost Final Four bid, eliminate titleholders Letran Knights
Daryll Menina draws the defense to give Christian Bunag a clear shot. Dante Peralta

MAPUA bolstered its playoff hopes and eliminated defending champion Letran, 77-72, on Tuesday in the NCAA basketball tournament at the Filoil Flying V Centre.

Allwell Oraeme had 21 points and 26 rebounds for the Cardinals, who are now assured of at least a playoff for a Final Four spot with a 10-5 card.

Denniel Aguirre, Joseph Erioubu, and Darell Mebuna also chipped in 12 points each in handing Letran its ninth loss in 17 games.

"I think this is the most satisfying win for us. We are happy about it," said Oraeme, who bounced back from a dismal outing last week.

Letran refused to go down as Rey Nambatac led a 10-0 run to open the fourth period and pull within one, 60-59.

But Oraeme retaliated and scored seven straight points, 67-63.

Bong Quinto tied the game at 67 before Menina and CJ Isit pushed the lead to five, 75-67 with 24.7 remaining to pull away for good.

Rey Nambatac, who sat briefly in the fourth period after hurting his left ankle, paced the embattled Knights with 19 points.

Quinto had 16 points, while Jerrick Balanza, John Calvo, and Jom Sollano added 10 markers apiece.

The scores:

Mapua 77 — Oraeme 22, Aguirre 12, Eriobu 12, Menina 12, Victoria 9, Isit 6, Bunag 3, Estrella 2, Orquina 0, Raflores 0, Serrano 0.

Letran 72 — Nambatac 19, Quinti 16, Balanza 10, Calvo 10, Sollano 10, Luib 3, Ambohot 2, Apreku 2, Balagasay 0, Dela Pena 0, Ular 0.

Quarterscores: 15-7; 39-29; 60-49; 77-72.

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