MIKE PARALA emerged as the unlikely hero for Mapua, delivering down the stretch to lead the Cardinals to a 64-55 win over College of St. Benilde on Thursday night in the 88th NCAA men’s basketball tournament at The Arena in San Juan.
Known more for his defense, the 6-foot-4 Parala stepped up on offense when it mattered most to help the Cardinals win their first game of the season.
He finished with a double-double of 12 points and 15 rebounds.
With the Cardinals trailing, 52-53, less than two minutes remaining, Parala went on a one-man run, accounting for the team's next eight points to clinch the victory.
Cardinals coach Chito Victolero believed it was just a matter of time before Parala would come up with that kind of showing.
“Matagal ko na hinihintay ang ganitong performance kay Mike,” Victolero said of his team’s co-captain.
Josan Nimes finished off the Blazers with four straight points. The second-year swingman led the Cardinals with 21 points and eight rebounds.
The Cardinals played their second game without rookies Gab Banal, Joseph Eriobu, Jessie Saitanan, and Mark Brana, who are still suspended because of a residency technicality.
"We came in as underdogs because we were undermanned," Victolero said.
The Blazers acted the part as favorites early on and still led at halftime, 30-28. But the Cardinals outscored them, 17-10, in the next period to finally gain advantage, 45-40.
“We started slow, but we recovered and sustained our defense,” Victolero said.
The Blazers, who lost for the second time in three outings, were led by Carlo Lastimosa’s 13 points but on a woeful 4-of-15 clip from the field.
MAPUA 64 – Nimes 21, Parala 12, Estrella 9, Ighalo 8, Chien 5, Abad 4, Cantos 3, Banal 2, Stevens 0
ST. BENILDE 55 – Lastimosa 13, Ongteco 8, Sinco 7, Tan 6, Tolentino 6, Grey 6, Taha 4, Bartolo 4, Carlos 1, Romero 0, Maconocido 0, Garcia 0, Altamirano 0, Deles 0
Quarterscores: 9-13; 28-30; 45-40; 64-55.