MAPUA finally found the finishing kick as it turned back San Sebastian, 89-81, on Monday at The Arena in San Juan to barge into the win column of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament.
For the third straight game, The Cardinals found themselves in a tight game, but they showed resolve this time to put an end to a six-game losing streak.
The Cardinals also dealt the Stags their third loss in six matches, dropping their victims to a three-way tie in the middle with College of St. Benilde and Jose Rizal University.
It was a day of upsets in the country’s oldest collegiate league after the Blazers stunned defending champion San Beda, 83-76, in the curtain-raiser.
“Intuition rin yan ng coach na pag nakita mo na umaangat laro ng player mo, alam mo na darating at darating rin yun (panalo),” Cardinals coach Atoy Co said.
It seemed the victory came a little earlier for a squad that lost its first two games by an average of 34 points. But slowly, they learned how to keep in step with their opponents, although still falling short.
“Last three games, medyo nandun kami. Hindi lang namin matapos sa endgame. Pero through those experiences, medyo nag-mature player ko and showed they were focused this time,” Co said.
True enough, the Cardinals took the fight to the Stags, the same team they first defeated last season.
Jessie Saitanan clicked on both ends of the floor this time, pumping in 24 points, nine boards, and four assists, while five other Cardinals scored at least eight points.
The collective effort was due to the Cardinals’ spreading the leather that saw them dish out an impressive 27 assists, compared to just 11 by the Stags.
So determined were the Cardinals to pull off their breakthrough victory in Season 90 that they managed to maintained a double-digit lead against a perennial Final Four team.
The Stags only nudged to within single digits after Jamil Ortuoste buried a triple that went a little late.
MIT 89 – Saitanan 24, Isit 14, Gabo 14, Cantos 14, Estrella 9, Biteng 8, Eriobu 4, Layug 2, Canaynay 0, Tubiano 0
SSC 81 – Perez 22, Ortuoste 16, Dela Cruz 12, Guinto 10, Yong 7, Fabian 5, Balucanag 4, Camasura 3, Calisaan 2, Costelo 0, Aquino 0
Quarterscores: 16-17, 42-37, 65-58, 89-81