MANILA, Philippines – Mapua turned back La Salle-Greenhills, 88-81,to clinch the first finals berth even as Arellano U pulled the rug from under reigning seven-peat champion San Beda, 89-84, to force a sudden death for the other berth in the 92nd NCAA basketball tournament at the MOA Arena in Pasay City Friday.

Will Gozum, a transferee from University of Philippines Intergrated School, stepped up big in the absence of Sherwin Concepcion, who suffered a season-ending right shoulder injury late in the second round, by powering his way to 16 points, six rebounds and three blocks to lead the Cardinals to their second finals stint in the last three seasons.

“We’ve made some adjustments since he (Concepcion) got injured and I’m happy that Gozum has taken the responsibility,” said Mapua coach Randy Alcantara, who lost to San Beda in the 2014 Finals before failing to make it that far last year after a loss to Arellano in the Final Four.

Mapua will face the winner between San Beda and Arellano U in the finals set to start on October 6.

Facing elimination, the Braves battled their way back from a 17-point deficit and went to Jayson Danas in the stretch as they forced a knockout duel on Tuesday for a spot in the best-of-three championships.

Danas, 19, scored six of his 10 points in the final 1.19 minutes to deal the biggest blows.

It was Arellano’s second win in three games against San Beda this season.

Interestingly, it was also the Braves who dealt the Cubs their only loss a year ago.

“We’re the only team that can beat San Beda, all the other teams have given up finding a way to beat them,” said Arellano U coach Tylon Darjuan. “And since we’re here, we might as well go for it.”

Lars Sunga led the team with 16 points while Guilmer dela Torre, Aaron Fermin and Carlo Abadeza chipped in 15, 15 and 14, respectively.

Abadeza gave Arellano U the lead for good when he scored on a driving layup while dela Torre, a leading MVP candidate, played decoy most of the game.

In the end, it was Danas who hit the biggest shots of the game.

The scores:

First Game (Jrs)

ARELLANO 89 – Sunga 16, Dela Torre 15, Fermin 15, Abadeza 14, Danas 10, Bataller 7, Espiritu 5, Tamayo 3, Domingo 2, Dulatre 1, Velasco 1, Fornis 0, De Leon 0, Camarillo 0, Dimaunahan 0

SAN BEDA 84 – Abu Hijleh 15, Etrata 15, Nayve 15, Tagala 8, Mahinay 8, Nelle 6, Dela Rosa 6, Obenza 5, Alfaro 2, Lagumen 2, Garcia 2, Barbero 0

QUARTER SCORES: 18-25, 37-49, 60-64, 89-84

Second Game (Jrs)

MALAYAN 88 – Gozum 16, Junsay 12, Garcia 12, Enriquez 11, Lacap 11, Samudio 10, Salenga 9, Bonifacio 6, Dagta 1, Escamis 0

CSB-LSGH 81 – Naboa 17, Mallillin 16, Espinosa 16, Cagulangan 10, Marcos 9, David 8, Pedrosa 2, Lao 2, Lepalam 1, Cruz 0, Magpantay 0, Belgica 0

QUARTER SCORES; 21-23, 38-37, 63-63, 88-81