It took nine games for Mapua University to break through in NCAA Season 98.
In the ongoing Season 99 men's basketball tournament, the Intramuros-based squad needed just one game to barge into the win column after escaping San Sebastian College-Recoletos on Tuesday to kick off its campaign on the right note.
Head coach Randy Alcantara has his rookies CJ Recto and Clint Escamis to thank for their impressive season debut.
"Medyo mabagal ‘yung simula namin pero normal ‘yun. Sabi ko nga, ‘wag kayong mawawala doon sa focus, dito sa game, at doon sa defensive rotation," Alcantara said after their 80-70 triumph against the Stags.
"And ayun, maganda naman ‘yung tinakbo."
(We had a slow start but it's normal. I told them to not lose their focus here in the game and in the defensive rotation. Eventually they had a good run.)
Warren Bonifacio took charge for Mapua, finishing with 16 points, including the final three-pointer that sealed it off for the Cardinals, alongside eight rebounds, three steals, and two blocks.
But behind Bonifacio's steady presence was the crucial contributions from first years CJ Recto and Clint Escamis.
Recto led their first half rally to tally a near double-double outing of 15 points and nine rebounds laced with two assists, four steals, and one block. Escamis, meanwhile, impressed in his NCAA return with 12 markers, seven dimes, and three boards.
"Malaking bagay sa amin ‘tong first win na ’to. Siguro lumabas ‘yung character nila, especially ‘yung mga beterano at ‘yung mga rookies namin," Alcantara added.
"Doon pa lang siguro, maganda ‘yung chance namin every game para makapag-compete against sa lahat ng teams."
(This first win is big for us. Their character showed, especially the veterans and even the rookies. If that's the case, we have a good chance to compete every game.)
—JKC, GMA Integrated News