CJ Isit's return proved timely for Mapua as the Cardinals ended their first round campaign in the NCAA with an emphatic victory over reigning champion Letran.
The Cardinals, with Allwell Oraeme and Darrel Menina leading the charge, overcame a big deficit to beat Letran, 79-75, to cap off the first round with a 6-3 win-loss card.
Menina, however, considered Isit's presence a key factor in their comeback win as the Cardinals now have a deeper backcourt rotation.
“Malaking bagay kasi may kapalitan ako, si Andoy (Estrella), mga point namin para makatulong at para makapahinga din kami. Si CJ nag-step-up din siya,” said the Talisay City native.
Thanks to added rest, Menina was able to take charge in the fourth period, scoring 12 of his 17 points in the quarter to help the Cardinals overcome a 12-point deficit.
Meanwhile, Isit also played quality minutes for the squad when he chipped in nine points in the match.
“Nag-shoot lang ako with confidence,” said Menina as he talked about his game against Letran. “Sa first half, hindi ako maka-shoot, pero second half, bumawi ako. Nagpa-practice lang ako mabuti para makatulong sa team at makapasok sa Final Four.”
Meanwhile, Oraeme had his usual numbers as he had 20 points and 20 rebounds in the Mapua victory. Yet the Cardinals big man was also glad to have Isit around as he brings much-needed leadership and stability to the team.
“It was big because he is our leader. I’m glad he is back,” said Oraeme.