For the second straight game, the Mapua Cardinals were pushed to the limit by the also-ran Perpetual Help Altas.
But for the second straight game, the Cardinals managed to make key plays down the stretch to beat the hardworking Altas anew, 65-62, to close in on Lyceum for the No. 4 spot in the 87th NCAA men’s basketball tournament at the Fil Oil-Flying V Arena.
Newcomers Josan Nimes and Yousef Taha worked on a perfectly-designed alley-oop for the go-ahead basket for Mapua. The Cardinals then got some lucky breaks in the dying seconds when they retained possession despite missing four foul shots to preserve the thrilling victory.
It was the third straight win for the Intramuros-based squad, all close games, to hike its win-loss record to 5-6.
The Cardinals moved to within a half-game of neighboring Lyceum (5-5) for fourth spot in the standings. They could overtake the Pirates for the position when they tangle on Friday in the “Battle of Intramuros.”
“Nakakailang game na kami na ganito at kahit talo e puro close,” said Mapua coach Chito Victolero. “Pero sa endgame nakaka-execute na kami dahil marami na kaming napagdaanan na ganito.”
Perpetual appeared headed for a stunning upset of Mapua when Justine Alano hit a putback with 2:12 remaining.
However, the Altas couldn’t capitalize on two turnovers by Allan Mangahas, and the Cardinals made them pay.
Nimes drove to the foul line before throwing a lob for Taha to gain a 63-62 lead with 28.7 seconds remaining.
Perpetual’s George Allen failed to put Perpetual back up when he missed a driving layup. Mapua’s Jason Pascual was fouled by Harold Arboleda with 15 seconds left.
Pascual muffed two charities and a battle for the rebound ensued. However, MIT retained the ball after a tap by Allen.
Nimes was fouled and likewise missed two foul shots, but Mark Sarangay came through with a big offensive board and was hacked with 10.7 seconds to go.
Sarangay made both free throws, and Mapua made a couple of defensive stops at the other end.
Nimes had 21 points, a follow-up to his 25-point effort in Mapua’s 94-90 overtime win over St. Benilde. He also had three rebounds and three assists in 33 minutes.
Mangahas and Taha each had 12 points and seven boards for the Cardinals.
Jet Vidal had 15 points off the bench for Perpetual. Alano had 11 points and eight boards and Elopre added eight points, two rebounds and three assists.
Perpetual also drew some energetic plays from feisty point guard Joel Jolangcob, who had four points, two rebounds and three assists in his second game back from a hand injury.
The Altas’ win-loss record, however, fell to 2-10.
MAPUA 65 – Nimes 21, Mangahas 12, Taha 12, Parala 7, Sarangay 4, Ranises 3, Pascual 2, Chien 2, Stevens 2, Banal 0.
PERPETUAL 62 – Vidal 15, Alano 11, Elopre 8, Sison 6, Arboleda 5, Paulino 5, Jolangcob 4, Allen 3, Asuncion 3, Tonggal 2, Thompson 0, Sumera 0.
Quarters: 12-19; 34-36; 52-47; 65-62