MAPUA clinched the No. 3 seeding in the Final Four of the NCAA Season 91 men's basketball tournament after beating Jose Rizal University, 81-76, on Friday at the Mall of Asia Arena.
CJ Isit led the way for the Cardinals, scoring 27 points in the playoff game as the league's former whipping boys continued a hot streak that saw it win eight of nine games in the second round of the eliminations.
By stopping JRU's six-game winning streak, Mapua was rewarded with a semifinal match against second seed Letran, which will have twice-to-beat advantage in the match-up.
JRU took No. 4 and will take on top-seed San Beda in the Final Four.
Isit set the pace in the first half by scoring 16 points. He continued the onslaught in the second half, scoring four points in a critical 8-2 run that put the Cardinals ahead, 67-60.
The Heavy Bombers fought back to within a point, 71-70, but the Cardinals responded with an Allwell Oraeme putback that gave them a 76-72 lead with 1:08 left in the fourth.
“I think our team responded well,” said Isit, who also shot 12-of-19 from the field and added five steals. “We came out with a lot of intensity. We took care of the defensive end since we know that we have the firepower.”
Darrel Menina had 16 points while Oraeme added 11 points and 24 rebounds for the Cardinals. Justin Serrano scored all of his eight points in the fourth quarter.
Tey Teodoro had 16 points for the Heavy Bombers but only got two points from Paolo Pontejos, who struggled after practicing just once with the team following the death of his father Joey last week.
Mapua (81) — Isit 27, Menina 16, Oraeme 11, Biteng 8, Nieles 8, Serrano 8, Nimes 3, Aguirre 0, Brana 0.
JRU (76) — Teodoro 16, Balagtas 12, Grospe 8, Poutouochi 7, Estrella 7, Lasquety 6, Dela Paz 6, Dela Virgen 5, Cruz 3, Pontejos 2, Sanchez 2, Abdul Wahab 0.
Quarterscores: 19-16, 38-32, 56-54, 81-76.