Mapua high school is back on top as the king of NCAA Juniors basketball.
The Red Robins won the Season 94 title after a thrilling game 3 finish against the CSB-LSGH Junior Blazers, 77-74, Thursday at the Mall of Asia Arena.
The game came down to the very last possession as Joshua David's game-tying triple was half a second late and was deemed not counted.
With the title-clinching win, Mapua has now won two NCAA Juniors titles in the last three years.
"We're so happy because this is the sweetest one because everyone knows that we're undermanned but we still managed to sustain that intensity and energy," said Mapua head coach Randy Alcantara. Star guard Clint Escamis missed his second straight game due to injury but the rest of the Red Robins answered the call.
Paolo Hernandez stepped up to the plate with a career-high 33 points, including seven 3-pointers, to go along with 12 rebounds as he earned finals MVP honors.
Hernandez did his damage in the first three quarters but went scoreless in the fourth as the Red Robins squandered a 16-point lead. Mapua was clinging to a 77-74 lead the entire final minute as LSGH kept missing its chances to tie the game. After a sorry miss from Joel Cagulangan, the door was left open for La Salle as Karl Mariano went 0-for-2 from the charity stripe.
But David missed a wide-open triple from the elbow and a desperation shot from Kobe Palancia only caught air. A scramble for the loose ball gave the Junior Blazers the ball back with 0.5 seconds left but David's shot at the buzzer was not meant to be.
After losing their lead, the Red Robins relied on the heroics of Dan Arches. The fiery guard was the only player who put Mapua on the scoreboard in the final frame. He scored six points of his 22 points in the fourth to help his team get the victory.
"Credit to the players who did nothing, but follow the game plan. I'm grateful to have these kinds of players," said Alcantara.
Inand Fornilos had 18 points and 11 rebounds in a losing effort for the Junior Blazers. Cagulangan, the team's lead guard, settled for only 10 points on 3-for-11 shooting after sustaining an ankle injury in the first four minutes of the game. Despite not shooting well, Cagulangan still managed to add six boards and five assists.
After Thursday's victory, the Mapua Red Robins are now tied with San Beda Red Cubs for the most titles in NCAA Juniors with 22 championships overall.
MAPUA 77 -- Hernandez 33, Arches 22, Sarias 5, Smith 5. Quimado 4, Policarpio 4, Mariano 2, Dennison 2, Lazarte 0, Diaz 0.
CSB-LSGH 74 -- Fornilos 18, David 13, Cagulangan 10, Palencia 8, Natividad 7, Calimag 6, Sangco 4, Lao 3, Mosqueda 3, Valenzuela 2, Lepalam 0.
Quarters: 18-15, 42-34, 71-56, 77-74.