Emilio Aguinaldo College (EAC) leaned on key foul shots down the stretch to edge Mapua University, 89-85, to snare its second straight win in the 94th National Collegiate Athletic Association men’s basketball tournament at the Filoil Flying V Centre in San Juan City.
Jerome Garcia, Sean Neri and Renz Gonzales combined for five free throws in the last two minutes to help the Generals seal their second win in a row.
Meanwhile, Arellano University drew a career 17-point game from Filipino-American Maui Sera Josef to overcome Jose Rizal University, 79-70, to remain at fifth spot with a 3-3 mark.
Also emerging victorious was San Beda University, which pulled off an 80-76 conquest of Letran College in overtime.
It was a sweet victory for the Generals, who started the season with four straight losses before essaying a thrilling 79-77 victory over San Sebastian College.
All in all, EAC made 20-of-28 free throws for a total of 46-of-61 in the last two outings, a vast improvement from its 17-of-46 clip in a 69-75 setback to Arellano University on July 19.
“Actually, that game, our free throw was a disaster and we really worked hard on it every day. We’re really thankful that our hard work is paying off,” said EAC coach Ariel Sison.
Cameroonian Hamadou Laminou came out big with 17 points, 12 rebounds and a game-high six blocks to underscore a monster performance since returning from an ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) injury last year.
“I’m not 100 percent, my hamstring still hurts a bit,” said Laminou. “But there’s no excuse for us not to play better and I just need to play smart and help in defense because I know we have scorers in the team.”
There were some anxious moments when CJ Cadua was assessed an unsportsmanlike foul and Mapua’s Laurenz Victoria a technical foul after a mad scramble for the loose ball with 13.5 seconds to go and the Generals up by just a hairline, 84-83.
Daniel Aguirre, however, missed his two foul shots while Garcia hit the bonus off the Victoria technical and two more off a fifth and last foul of Victoria a play later to give EAC a four-point cushion en route to the victory.
Noah Lugo delivered a game-high 24 points for the Cardinals, who fell to 2-5.