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NCAA: Randy Alcantara and muse Paolo Hernandez march back to Finals

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Mapua coach Randy Alcantara –MARLO CUETO/INQUIRER.net

MANILA, Philippines—A director needs a muse. Martin Scorsese has Robert de Niro, Sofia Coppola has Bill Murray and Quentin Tarantino has Uma Thurman.

When Randy Alcantara began directing his coaching path for Mapua, he had to have someone who would always be there in different scenes—from the losses to the wins.

Enter Paolo Hernandez.

Hernandez, who has always been under the tutelage of Alcantara since his Red Robin days, didn’t let his mentor down when it mattered most.

With an NCAA Season 99 Finals ticket on the line, Hernandez fired a game-high 22 points to power the Cardinals back in the league’s grandest stage after defeating College of St. Benilde, 78-67.

He could’ve played a more off-ball game at Mall of Asia Arena on Tuesday especially with Mapua having the luxury of running to Clint Escamis on offense.

But Hernandez just couldn’t let Alcantara and his whole squad down with the given trust.

“The trust for me was there even if I struggled in a lot of my games so I just did my best to return the favor for my teammates, the coaching staff and especially coach Randy. He motivates me insanely,” said the shooting guard.

Paolo Hernandez Mapua NCAA

Mapua’s Paolo Hernandez.–MARLO CUETO/INQUIRER.net

And why wouldn’t he be heavily motivated by his head tactician? After all, he’s the one who’s been there from the jump.

In Season 97 when the Cardinals exceeded expectations and reached the Finals up until the next season when they had an abysmal season, Hernandez was either on the bench or in the hardwood to play for veteran shot caller Alcantara.

“I’m very thankful because even before I got to Mapua in high school, it was like I was randomly picked up by coach. He saw me roaming around campus and just picked me up,” recalled Hernandez.

“From that day on, I told myself that I’d play for this coach and I’ll bring this coach to Finals.”

It’s not like Alcantara’s a stranger to the bright lights. Before he called the shots, he took the shots.

Back in 1991, when Mapua won the league’s title for the last time before going on a 32 year drought, Alcantara was a member of the legendary Cardinals team that won the chip over San Beda.

And now he’s back on that same old stage with bright new lights and brand new stakes. He’s in the same movie, but he’s not the same actor that he was.

No, that spot is now reserved for Mapua’s new blockbuster star Hernandez and Alcantara is more than happy to direct where this Mapua run is going.

“Of course, our mission is how we would play consistently and with the help of this veteran, we made it,” said the top coach.

“It’s not easy now with all these opponents because everyone’s balanced. Until here, it’s hard. I’m just surprised that at the end, it was the veteran that gave us the win and we know they’re there.”



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The duo of Hernandez and Alcantara plus the entire Mapua squad will march back into the Finals against either San Beda or Lyceum.

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