Mapua overcame a gritty St. Benilde challenge and carved out a 69-59 win on Thursday, to clinch the last seat to the Final Four in the 92nd NCAA basketball tournament at The Arena in San Juan City.
Allwell Oraeme, the reigning MVP, survived the Blazers’ physical play by finishing strong with 16 points and 19 rebounds, both game-highs, to power the Cardinals to their 11th win against five outings and into the Final Four.
There, Mapua joined Arellano U (13-3), San Beda (12-4) and Perpetual Help (11-5).
Most importantly, the win kept the Cardinals’ hope of finishing in the top two and in the process clinching a twice-to-beat incentives in the Final Four.
“We just want to be in the Final Four, that’s our goal today,” said the 20-year-old Oraeme, who leads the way in the MVP race.
Joseph Eriobu kept his strong play as he contributed in 13 points including some clutch baskets in the final quartter after averaging 20 points in the last two games.
The Blazers absorbed their 16th straight defeat, or just two losses away from ending the season without a win.
But St. Benilde appeared ending the losing skein when it set the tone in the first half and most part of the third quarter.
They did it by making hounding and roughing up Oraeme, who just couldn’t get into comfort zone early.
The Blazers led by eight points, the last at 37-29 on a Yankie Haruna basket to start the third canto.
It turned out their last hurrah as the Cardinals fought their way back and finally grabbed the upperhand on back-to-back baskets by Eriobu late in the third period to lead, 50-46, at the end of it.
It was all Mapua from there.
MIT (69) – Oraeme 16, Eriobu 13, Isit 8, Menina 8, Serrano 8, Victoria 6, Estrella 4, Bunag 2, Orquina 2, Raflores 2, Aguirre 0.
CSB (59) – Castor 10, Leutcheu 10, Young 10, Domingo JJ 7, Belgica 6, Dixon 3, Pasamante 2, Pajarillaga 0, Pili 0, Saavedra 0, Suarez 0.
Quarterscores: 11-18, 29-31, 50-46, 69-59.