Batangueño Paolo Hernandez stepped up in Game 1 of the NCAA Season 99 Finals to help the Mapua Cardinals escape the San Beda Red Lions, 68-63, with a big time double-double of 16 points, 12 rebounds, and two assists.

Damie Cuntapay, James Payosing, and Jomel Puno’s attacks in the paint led San Beda to their biggest lead of the game, 21-29, in the second quarter.

Hernandez and JC Recto rallied back Mapua to an 8-2 run to cut the lead to a single possession ball game.

The Red Lions’ defense was effective, keeping Most Valuable Player award front runner Clint Escamis at bay before finding his rhythm in the charity stripes. The Davao and Dumaguete native made three tough layups after going 0-out-of-7 from the field to give Mapua a five-point cushion going to the half, 36-31.

Back-and-forth action lit up the jam packed Mall of Asia Arena as both teams trade baskets to start the third quarter.

Mapua’s lead ballooned to 14 courtesy of Hernandez’s long two over the outstretched arms of Nygel Gonzales

Heavily guarded King Lion, Jacob Cortez, provided the momentum shift for the Red Lions late in the third. He made his first basket after going 0-out-of-9 from the field with eight seconds left in the third to stop the bleeding for the Red Lions before topping it off with a buzzer beating half-court heave, to trim the lead, 59-48.

But San Beda won’t go down without a fight, the Red Lions made some stops in the final canto despite Mapua’s good ball movement.

James Payosing’s bank shot after evading two defenders cuts the deficit to six and forces Coach Randy Alcantara to call a timeout halfway through the final fourth.

Emman Tagle pumped back life to San Beda after sinking a corner three and converting two free throws. 

Cortez missed a tough shot from beyond the arc that could tie the game to 63-all as Escamis converted both free throws to extend their lead to four to seal the ball game.


Mapua 68- Escamis 18, Hernandez 16, Rosillo 15, Bonifacio 15, Bonifacio 6, Recto 5, Cuenco 4, Soriano 4, Fornis 0, Dalisay 0.

San Beda 63- Payosing 14, Puno 12, Cortez 12, Andrada 8, Jopia 8, Tagle 5, Cuntapay 2, Visser 2, Alfaro 0, Gonzales 0, Royo 0, Gallego 0.

Quarterscores: 17-17; 36-31; 59-48; 68-63.