MAPUA weathered a late Jose Rizal University run to fashion out a 72-67 victory and fortify its Final Four bid yesterday in the NCAA men's basketball tournament at the Filoil Flying V Centre.
The Cardinals won despite playing minus key players Noah Lugo (fever) and Paolo Hernandez (injury), as Justin Serrano and JP Nieles stepped up in their absence.
Dislodging skidding College of Saint Benilde in fifth place at 7-6, Mapua is now just trailing fourth-running San Sebastian (7-5) by half-a-game in the race for the last Final Four berth.
Earlier, defending champion San Beda extended its perfect run to 14 games but not before surviving a University of Perpetual Help System Dalta scare, 75-62.
Serrano scored eight of his 12 points in the Cardinals' third quarter breakaway while Nieles, playing extended minutes with Noah indisposed, chipped in 11 markers and stabilized his troops in the heat of the Bombers late uprising.
Mapua is facing two key matches next week against last season's finalists that will potentiallly make or break its Final Four push.
"Of course, mahirap, LPU and San Beda. Pero, kakayanin namin. Hindi magiging madali ang mga laban na iyon," said coach Randy Alcantara.
Marwin Dionisio finished with 15 points for JRU.
It was a totally different Altas team from the one that was blown out of the court by the Red Lions in the first round that has shown up.
In the juniors division, Rhayyan Amsali had 19 points and 11 rebounds as San Beda nipped Perpetual Help, 100-97, for its 13th win in 14 contests, while JRU edged Mapua, 77-74, to raise its record at 7-6. (Theodore P. Jurado)
San Beda (75) - Oftana 17, Tankoua 17, Canlas 16, Doliguez 8, Soberano 8, Abuda 5, Nelle 4, Alfaro 0, Bahio 0, Cariño 0, Cuntapay 0, Etrata 0, Noah 0.
Perpetual (62) - Aurin 13, Adamos 12, Razon 12, Peralta 11, Charcos 9, Martel 3, Labarda 2, Guissani 0, Lanoy 0.
Quarterscores: 14-12, 31-33, 50-46, 75-62
Mapua (72) - Victoria 13, Serrano 12, Buñag 11, Nieles 11, Gonzales 10, Bonifacio 8, Aguirre 3, Nocum 2, Salenga 2, Gamboa 0, Garcia 0, Jabel 0.
JRU (67) - Dionisio 15, Miranda 13, Amores 12, Aguilar 8, Dela Rosa 8, Delos Santos 5, Abaoag 2, Arenal 2, Jungco w, Macatangay 0, Vasquez 0.
Quarterscores: 12-15, 30-31, 48-39, 72-67