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Mapua nears NCAA title, holds off San Beda in Sport 1

Mapua’s Clint Escamis during Game 1 of the NCAA Season 99 men’s basketball final against San Beda. – PHOTO NCAA

MANILA, Philippines – Clint Escamis and Paolo Hernandez have come a long way since their last title run together.

They are set to create a brand new championship alliance as the Mapua Cardinals are set to seal the Season 99 NCAA men’s basketball crown at the expense of the San Beda Purple Lions, 68-63, Wednesday.

Escamis, the tournament’s projected rookie MVP, shot 18 points, his free throws in the final seconds securing victory for the Cardinals, whose last title came 32 years ago.

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Hernandez, whose backcourt partnership half a decade ago with Escamis helped lead Mapua to the junior championship, scored 16 points and helped revitalize the team’s offense in the face of San Beda’s blistering comeback .

“We are happy to have obtained the first recreation of the collection. Our work is not finished yet, so we have to organize the next match. We know San Beda is going to bounce back,” said Mapua crew captain Warren Bonifacio.

With the Cardinals narrowly ahead, 66-63, Jacob Cortez evaded his defender and had a good line drive with his side jumper from just outside the arc, but failed to knock him down .

That gave the Red Lions no chance but a foul on the next play, sending Escamis to the line.

“I went 0 for two in the semifinals (against St. Benilde University) and finished 1 for 4 with my free throws. Coach (Randy Alcantara) whispered to me that in the final I’m going to make those free throws and that motivated me,” Escamis said.

Paolo Hernández Mapua NCAA

Paolo Hernández.–NCAA PHOTO

James Payosing led the Red Lions with 14 points, Jomel Puno scored all 12 of his points in the first half and Cortez had 12, but the Mapua defense was so stifling that San Beda’s main weapon from distance was shut down .

The Purple Lions went 5 of 32 from the three-point line, a far cry from the 13 threes they sank against the Lyceum Pirates in their semifinal rubber match.

Hernandez and Escamis orchestrated the attack that put the Cardinals comfortably on top, led by 16 points capped by Jopet Soriano’s giveaways.

Cortez was able to get the San Beda crowd back on its feet with a drive and long three at the buzzer that cut the deficit heading into the final period.

The Purple Lions advanced with an eight-point advantage on Jomel Puno’s forays before the Cardinals overcame the deficit.

Hernandez sparked a 15-2 tear for Mapua with a step-back jumper over a smaller Oliver Tagle, clearing the way for Escamis to emerge from an early scoring slump.

Stifling its first seven shots, Escamis broke the deadlock by hitting two free throws and finding sieves in the San Beda defense twice, pushing them ahead, 36-31, at halftime.

The second part of the final will take place on Sunday at the Mall of Asia Area.

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