By Michael Angelo S. Murillo, Senior Reporter
THE Mapua Cardinals and College of St. Benilde Blazers were victorious in the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) on Tuesday, turning away their respective opponents convincingly in scheduled matches at the FilOil Flying V Centre in San Juan.
Mapua staved off the resilient Arellano Chiefs, 91-83, in the 2 p.m. contest while St. Benilde pinned the Jose Rizal University (JRU) Heavy Bombers, 81-66, in the seniors curtain-raiser at 12 noon.
The Cardinals had it crisp on both ends of the court to start the match, taking the opening quarter, 31-22, and staying steady to maintain control, 52-40, at the half.
Arellano tried to claw its way back in the third canto, cutting its deficit to single digits on several occasions.
But the Cardinals held the fort to stay on top, 69-57, heading into the final frame.
Led by guard Levi Dela Cruz, the Chiefs scrambled to make their way back in the fourth period.
They were able to come within five points, 85-80, with 2:34 left on the clock.
But Mapua would shut the door on them with six straight points after, care of Cedric Pelayo, Warren Bonifacio and Noah Lugo, from which the Chiefs could not recover from.
Five players scored in double digits for the Cardinals, led by the 16 points of Christian Bunag.
Eric Jabel had 15 while Pelayo finished with 14.
Lugo and Bonifacio each had 12 points.
Arellano, meanwhile, was paced by Dela Cruz with 25 markers.
“We just stayed composed. Arellano did a good job in coming close but we just hung in there and held on,” said Mapua’s Laurenz Victoria after their win that pushed them to 2-2 for the season.
The Chiefs dropped to 2-2 after the loss.
Meanwhile, earlier in the day, St. Benilde rode the efforts of Cameroonian Clement Leutcheu to complete the mastery of struggling JRU.
Leutcheu finished with a solid double-double of 20 points and 14 rebounds to help his team get back on the winning track and improve to 2-2 for the season.
Held a narrow 16-15 lead at the end of the first 10 minutes, the Blazers cranked things up in the second quarter, led by Leutcheu, to stretch their lead to 37-27 by the halftime break and never look back the rest of the way.
Play was temporarily halted in the second period after JRU’s Justin Padua hit St. Benilde’s Unique Naboa in a scramble for loose ball.
A brief commotion ensued after which Padua was assessed with a disqualifying foul and was tossed out while St. Benilde rookie Fil-Am Justin Gutang was assessed a warning for extra motion.
Yankie Haruna added 15 points in the Blazers win while Edward Nixon and Naboa had 10 each.
While happy with the win, St. Benilde coach TY Tang said they still need to work on their consistency moving forward.
“It was about consistency. We’re not yet used to the grit and grind type of games in the NCAA and that’s what we really lacked as a team. It’s a long season and we get a chance to correct the mistakes and improve and maybe we can peak at the right time,” Mr. Tang said.
The loss was the fifth straight in as many games for the Bombers (0-5), who was led by Jed Mendoza and Mark Mallari with 16 and 14 points, respectively.