22 titles in a nest of Red Robins
MANILA, Philippines — Mapua leaned on a career effort by Paolo Hernandez and fourth quarter heroics by Dan Arches as it edged La Salle-Greenhills, 77-74, yesterday to join San Beda as the most titled high school team in league history in the 94th NCAA basketball tournament.
Hernandez found the time to drop his best game and unleashed 33 points including seven booming triples while Arches fired 22 points including all six of his team’s points in the final period to seal the Robins’ 2-1 series win and book their 22nd championship to tie the Cubs as the winningest juniors’ squad in the league today.
Joshua David’s triple that would have knotted the count and force overtime with half a second to go was negated after a video review showed the ball was still in his hands when the final buzzer sounded.
It was pandemonium from there as Mapua, after a couple of premature celebrations on earlier plays, finally got to cherish their second title in the last three seasons.
“I think this is the most memorable because we won it even though we lacked the players,” said Mapua coach Randy Alcantara, whose best player, skipper Clint Escamis, was ruled out in Games Two and the decider after reinjuring his left knee in the series opener.
Joel Cagulangan, the league MVP, hurt his ankle early in the game and managed just 10 points that hastened his team’s downfall.
The Junior Blazers put up a valiant effort and made a spirited fightback from a 16-point deficit late in the third quarter to knot it at 74-all with less than two minutes left.
But Arches split his free throws and scored a basket in the next few plays while Mapua’s defense held up to seal the deal.