MAPUA coach Atoy Co appeared so used to losing that he went straight to the dugout — and not the media room for the customary post-game conference with the winning coach — after the Cardinals registered a rare victory in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament on Friday.
But the PBA great had to reason to celebrate as the Cardinals once again stunned San Sebastian, 75-73, at The Arena in San Juan, notching only their second win in 12 games and adding to the misery of the Stags, who suffered an eighth successive defeat and ninth overall against three wins.
Mapua overhauled a sizeable double-digit deficit with a late fightback as it frustrated San Sebastian anew, sweeping their head-to-head matchup this season.
“I’m proud of my players for not giving up,” Co later told a handful of scribes who had to interview the amiable coach outside the dugout.
"Kaya lang namin sila (Stags) nagiging suki kasi we can match up with them body to body. Pag ibang team, mina-mama kami."
Behind shifty guards Leo Gabo, Andoy Estrella, CJ Isit, and Exeqiel Biteng, and a stingy full-court defense, the Cardinals came back from a 38-54 hole midway through the third quarter.
Gabo scored 10 of his 14 points in the third, then Estrella delivered the key baskets in the stretch, while gaining a spark from Biteng, who scored all but two if his eight points in the final frame.
The loss put to naught another sterling performance from the Stags’ CJ Perez, who scattered 26 points, eight boards, four steals, and three assists, against six errors.
MIT 75 – Gabo 14, Estrella 14, Isit 12, Eriobu 12, Biteng 8, Cantos 7, Saitanan 4, Canaynay 2, Villasenor 2
SSC 73 – Perez 26, Dela Cruz 16, Guinto 12, Ortuoste 11, Camasura 3, Yong 3, Calisaan 2, Balucanag 0, Fabian 0, Costelo 0, Aquino 0, Mercado 0
Quarterscores: 18-23, 32-42, 53-57, 75-73