The Rise of the Mapua Red Robins as champions and the last dance of the San Beda Red Cubs (part 2)

The San Beda Red Cubs were champions from 2009 to 2015.

In Game 3 of the 92nd National Collegiate Athletic Association junior basketball finals, the team was  put in an unfamiliar situation.

They hardly experienced the situation of being left behind by a big margin in the first period.


(Brian Lacap (8) in a rebound play with San Beda’s Sam Abu Hijle, with Bryan Samudio(13) ready to provide assistance)

Coach JB Sison admitted that the players  felt pressured and frustrated at having to play catch in the first three quarters.

What the Red Robins did to them in the first period was something they will never forget.

“I was expecting a closer game because this is a deciding game. Pero, the whole game, we were trying to catch up,” said Sison after the game.


(Clint Escamis (10) waits for a pass from teammate following a loose ball situation inside the paint).

Carlo Obenza led the Red Cubs with 14 points while Addie Velasquez also had 14, and Mahinay added 11.

The Red Cubs tried to be in control in the opening minutes of the game.

Sam Abu Hijle scored off a defensive rebound by Evan Nelle in the last 9:12 to tie the match for the first time, 2-all.


(Bryan Samudio (13) goes for a drive past Sam Abu Hijle (16)).

He struck again following a turnover by Jasper Salenga, and the Red Cubs took the lead, 4-2,

The Red Robins turned the ball over again, but misses by Peter Alfaro and Abu Hijle allowed the Red Robins to force a 4-all tie off Clint Escamis’ attack.

After Rob Nayve turned the ball over for third time for San Beda, the Red Robins began making their moves to move away.


(Juaqui Garcia (17) is harassed by San Beda’s Robi Nayve (7)).

Their first chance came when Brian Lacap hit a three, 7-4, off Clint Escamis’ assist, with 7:23 to go

The Red Cubs still managed to stay within range, 6-7, off Nayve’s basket, with 6:50.

But, Escamis had an answer, and Mapua stayed up by three, 9-6.


(Josh Tagala (5) of San Beda takes possession of the ball while Mapua teammates Jasper Salenga (middle) and Warren Bonifacio (15) prepare to intercept).

They had a chance to forced a deadlock, but Peter Alfaro missed a triple, and Garcia scored off Bonifacio’s rebound in the next play, 11-6.

Then, Obenza came in for Alfaro and turned the ball over.

Garcia turned this into a golden opportunity for the Red Robins, his drive with 5:37 left moving the Red Robins further ahead, 13-6.


(rebound play from (16) Sam Abu Hijle and Clint Escamis (10) and with Mapua player Warren Bonifacio (15)).

Mahinay tried to keep it close with his inside play that yield a basket and a charity, 13-9, of Escamis’ foul.

Then, three-point play by Salenga off Obenza foul with 4:45 to go kept MHSS up, 16-9.

Samudio then forced Prince Etrata to a dribbing error, and scored off it in the final 3:52, 18-9.


(San Beda’s Carlo Obenza goes for a drive past two Mapua defenders).

They later took an 11-point lead. 22-11, off Escamis’ two freebies after he stole off Prince Etrata and got fouled by Obenza in the last 1:31.

Etrata turned the ball over again, and Lacap made his mark in the last 1:05, and Mapua’s edge went up by 13, 24-11, and moments before the first period ended.


(Eduardo Velasquez).

(To be continued).


NCAA Season 92 Junior Basketball: The Rise of the Mapua Red Robins as champions, the last dance of the SBC Red Cubs(part 1)

People celebrated last Friday, Oct. 14, when the Mapua/Malayan High School of Science (MHSS) Red Robins won their first title in 16 years in the 92nd National Collegiate Athletic Association Junior Basketball finals.

First they cheered the Red Robins for having the guts stand up against a traditional powerhouse like the San Beda Red Cubs.

Second, there were celebrations over the return of the San Beda Red Lions as collegiate champions.


(Members of the Mapua Red Robins shout for joy in closing minutes of the fourth quarter).

(Then, there were other celebrations. This time, its the scribes who quietly wrote their stories from the comfort of their airconditioned and wifi-ready press rooms. Their party was more about the end of the basketball season. And I went with them to Antipolo to join their party with writer Reuben Terrado and told them about the big upset that took place at the Mall of Asia Arena that afternoon. As the beer and the tequila flowed, the unconnected question of Val Sotto’s status popped (more on this adventure with members of the Collegiate Press Corps later in part 2)).

On that fateful day of the finals, the Red Robins came early to practice their shooting.

And so did the Red Cubs, who were wary of the serious game faces that members of the opposing team were putting on at courtside, and so the game started.


(The team and their supporters sing the school anthem in victory at the end of the finals for the first time in 16 years).

This time around, it was the Red Robins who gave the Red Cubs one big fight when gametime finally came in Game 3 of their finals showdown at the Mall of Asia Arena.

In this game, it was not only  the big plays of  shooting guard Clint Escamis in the second half which allowed them Red Robs to coast to a 19-point win over the  Red Cubs, 83-64.


(The Red Cubs size up their situation after the game).

In all, there were six teammates who came forward and scored in double digits, and played way beyond their season averages.

Aside from Clint, these guys included newbies Brian Lacap and Brian Samudio.

And then, there’s Juaqui Garcia, who reinforced veterans Jasper Salenga, Warren Bonifacio and Romuel Junsay.



(Red Robin Brian Lacap (8) fights his way out of double by Red Cubs Robi Nayve (7) and Peter Alfaro (15) while Prince Etrata (9) prepares to support).


In the first period, the Red Cubs first took a 4-2 lead following Samuel Abu Hijle drive off  Salenga’s turnover in the last 8:39.

Then the Red Robins replied with 9-2 run behind Escamis driving layup and  Lacap’s triple in the remaining 7:30.


(Clint Escamis (10) leaps ahead of an attempting Germy Mahinay(12)).

Their efforts eventually saw the Red Robins moving by seven.

Back-to-back baskets from  Garcia in the final 5:37 handed the Red Lions a 13-6 advantage.

“Alam ko ang mga bata. Isang taon silang nag-sakripisyo. Pinaghirapan nila ito,” said Red Robins coach Randy Alcantara.


(Will Gozum(19) shares the ball with MVP Bryan Samudio (13))


In the second period,  Escamis’ inside play of Lacap’s assist pushed Mapua ahead, 26-13, in the last 6:41.

Lacap’s split charity in the last 4:48 handed Mapua a 33-17 spread.


(Juaqui Garcia(17) is screened by Carlo Obenza (3)).

“Lahat dinaanan namin. Pati sa injuries. Kulang kami sa lineup,” added  Alcantara as the Red Robins adjusted to the absence of Mike Enriquez and big man Sherwin Concepcion.

Enriquez sat it out after Game 2 after he re-fractured his left ankle, and so did Concepcion.

Concepcion  hurt his left shoulder late in the second round.


(Jasper Salenga (11) gets a screen from Addie Velasquez (6) while Warren Bonifacio (15) looks on).


In the third period, the 6’3 Lacap struck twice, first with a triple, as he and big man Warren Bonifacio took charge during  9-0 blast in the start of the second half.

This handed the Red Robins a 23-point edge, 47-24, with 6:36 remaining.


(Warren Boniafacio (15) in a rebound play with Josh Tagala (5) and Jasper Salenga (11). Robi Nayve (7) in the background).

.“Nandito sila para ipanalo ang team sa San Beda. Nakabawi na kami from 2014,” said Alcantara.

It will be recalled that the Red Robins missed the crown in 2014 when they lost in overtime to the Red Cubs.

The Red Cubs drew 14 points from Cebuano recruit Carlo Obenza.


(Robi Nayve (7) gets stalked by Romuel Junsay (7))

He and Mahinay led the tally that helped the Red Cubs move away from their 23-point deficit.

The 10-1 spurt that followed cut the Red Robins lead down to 14, 34-48.

But a foul by Mahinay, allowed Bonifacio to move it back up by 16, 50-34, with 3:24 remaining.


(Carlo Obenza drives past to defending Red Robins).

(for more on the best of three finals series of the season 90, it can be viewed on the following links:;;;

These links describe how the season 90 NCAA junior finals went).



(Eduardo Velasquez Jr. (6) drives past Jasper Salenga (11)).

Samudio earned his stripes as the finals MVP in the last 10 minutes.

First he scored on an assist by Escamis.

Then, he converted a split charity shot off Obenza’s foul, and it came during a 7-0 run that kept the Red Robins up by 16, 59-43.

It was his triple and Salenga’s two charities off Obenza’s foul that saw the Red Robins’ edge swell to 19 points with 2:26 to go.

Their advantage move further up to 24 points when Garcia knocked in a triple, and Samudio struck off Romuel Junsay’s assist in the final 1:32.

(When I talked to to coach Randy would recall the events of 2014 when the game was so closer, that they almost won it. But Noah Lugo did not sink a pair of attempts when the buzzer sounded in regulation).

“Alam naming kung paano sila lamangan, at manalo sa kanila,” added Alcantara.

The way they reached the finals was different back then(To be continued).

NCAA Season 92 Junior Basketball: Peter Alfaro’s freebie ties finals series for San Beda Red Cubs

Pedro Alfaro III was getting tired.

Also known as Peter among his friends, he’s been playing for 18 minutes in Game 2 of the junior finals.

That afternoon, his efforts was among those that proved to be among the turning points in  the 92nd National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) junior basketball wars.


(Peter Alfaro tries to drive past Mapua defender Brian Samudio).

And that was on Oct. 11, Tuesday at the Mall of Asia Arena.

His time on the floor was  beyond his average of 14.7 minutes in the 18 games that he has seen action throughout the season.

But, things turned around when top Mapua Red Robins scorer Romuel Junsay fouled him with 6.5 seconds to go.


(The Red Lions celebrate their Game 2 victory).

The 5’11 shooting guard from Zamboanga has a 51.39 percent clip from his field goals.

His 18 of 29 free throw shooting is 62.1 percent overall for this season.

He first made the sign of the cross, and shot one of two charity attempts in the next instant.


(Members of the Mapua Red Robins are in an emotional moment after the game).

This lifted the defending champion San Beda Red Cubs to an 81-78 triumph over the Mapua Red Robins.

This put them in a deciding Game Three in their best-of-three series this Friday at 2 p.m.

“Medyo may fatigue na ako. Pero, kaya pa,” said the 17-year old Alfaro minutes after the game.


(Carlo Obenza of SanBeda (3) guards Mapua’s Romuel Junsay, while Evan Nelle(10) watches).

In that game, rookie Carlo Obenza hit a gamehigh 19 points for the Red Cubs.

“Sobrang muntikan na. Buti na lang, naka-recover kami sa seven-point deficit,” said Red Cubs coach JB Sison.

The Red Cubs, who rallied from seven points down in the last five minutes, forced a 77-all deadlock in the last 1:46.


(Robi Nayve (7) of San Beda guards a dribbling Jeonel Ramos of the Mapua Red Robins), while Evan Nelle (10) runs behind).

This was after Germy Mahinay drove past Jasper Salenga, and off Josh Tagala’s pass.

But the Red Robins still managed to stay in front for the last time.

They took a one-point lead, 78-77, off Salenga’s freebie after Mahinay fouled him in the last 1:12.


(Germy Mahinay in a rebound play with Mapua’s Will Gozum).

Obenza then pushed the Red Cubs ahead.

His  drive off his steal from Brian Lacap put them up, 79-78.

And as the Red Robins fell into foul trouble, Tagala and Alfaro sank their gift shots in the remaining 8.4 and 6.5 seconds.

oct13evan (Evan Nelle reacts after he pass the ball past his defender, Brian Samudio).

Romuel Junsay shot a gamehigh 23 points, and tried to help Will Gozum make a winning shot in thend.

But Gozum’s triple did not go in when the buzzer sounded.

Junsay banged in eight points in the second period.


(Josh Tagala (5) barrels his way past Mapua’s Jasper Salenga).

This helped the Red Robins widened an 18-16 lead with a 10-0 run that it sparked.

The 5’11 Junsay capped that run with a triple in the last 2:22.

This handed the Red Robins an 11-point spread, 39-28.


Sam Abu Hijle (16) and Addie Velasquez(6) gets in front of Mapua ballhandler Brian Samudio) while teammate Brian Lacap (behind)prepares for anything

The Robins, who took the series opener, 83-64, Thursday.

They appeared headed at grabbing the title when the Red Robins led 41-33 at the half.

NCAA Season 92 Junior Basketball: The on-and-off games of Evan Nelle and the 10-game winning streak of the San Beda Red Cubs

All season long, Evan Nelle struggled with his shooting range.

But his range remained the same.

It was always off. And he knows it.


(Evan Nelle in a defensive play).

But, still, Evan made the most out of what he can do for the team, even if he is in his worst performance in two years.

On Aug. 29, this did not matter to the 18-year old Nelle, who left La Salle-Zobel five years ago because he was too thin and too frail-looking to be accepted by the varsity team.

He  managed to shoot important baskets when the San Beda Red Cubs got past the University of Perpetual Help Junior Altas, 93-81 at the FilOil-Flying V Sports Center in San Juan.


(Germy Mahinay (right) sings the school anthem after the game with teammates Robi Nayve (7), Ry de la Rosa, Luke Sese and Sam Abu Hijle (16)).

This sent the Red Cubs to their 12th win in 13 games, and they remained tied for the lead with the Arellano University Braves.

The victory was counted as win no. 5 of a 10-game winning streak that the Red Cubs were pulling off in the second round.

On that day, Guilmer de la Torre fired 30 points for the Arellano Braves in their 107-77 win over the Letran Squires.

oct08josh (Josh Tagala).

Troy Mallinlin shot 17 points as the La Salle Greenhills Greenies won over San Sebastian, 61-51, and hiked their record to 10-3 in third.

Benedict Buno made 12 points as Jose Rizal University prevailed over EAC-ICA, 88-65.

(Ongoing Scenario 1: Last Oct. 4, the defending champion San Beda Red Cubs took control early, and held their ground in the fourth, and put away the Arellano University Braves, 102-93, in their junior division rubber match. Point guards Robi Nayve and Mark Lagumen shot 17 and 16 points for the Red Cubs, who advanced to the finals for an eighth straight season, and they will meet the Mapua Red Robins in a best-of-three affair. Lagumen unloaded nine points in the first period to lead to 25-4 spread in the last 1:26).


(Jielo Razon (left) chases down Sam Abu Hijle).

(Ongoing Scenario 2:  Last Oct. 6: the Mapua Red Robins turned to the big plays of shooting guard Clint Escamis in the second half to outplay the defending champion San Beda Red Cubs, 83-64,  in Game 1 of the junior division finals.The 5’8 Escamis, playing in the absence of ailing teammate Mike Enriquez, tallied 12 points as he helped the Red Cubs move closer to their first title in 16 years. It was his triple off Bryan Samudio’s pass in the last 25 seconds which allowed the Red Cubs to move away, 59-53, near the end of their third period.

  • San Beda Red Cubs 93, Perpetual Help Junior Altas 81

Things were going great for the Red Cubs in the last 6:17 of the game.

They were enjoying an 82-71 advantage.


(Eduardo Velasquez Jr.).

Germy Mahinay scored off an assist from Addie Velasquez to make this happen.

That was when the Junior Altas made their final push to stay in the fight.

Jielo Razon, who led the Junior Altas with 24 points and seven rebounds, started a  10-4 run with his split charities off Velasquez foul.


(San Beda Coach JB Sison and members of the coaching staff).

When the rally ended, Razon converted four charities off Carlo Obenza’s fouls in the last 2:53.

And, the Junior Altas moved dangerously within reach of the Red Cubs, 81-86.

This is when coach JB Sison made defensive adjustments.


(Rob Mendoza).

This involved Nelle, Prince Etrata and Joshua, who were doing some trapping and harassing on the ball handler in the closing minutes of the game.

First, the three forced Jasper Cuevas to turn the ball over on a passing error.

Then Germy Mahinay sank a putback off Obenza’s pass, 88-81.


(Justine Disquitado(12) tries to dribble his way past Prince Etrata(9) while Errol Bongay prepares to assist).

When Razon missed a forced shot, Nelle was there to assist Tagala for a basket, and the Red Cubs moved further ahead, 90-81.

A turnover followed after Junior Altas cager Iverson Aquiatan bungled a trey.

Nelle’s trey with 35 ticks left gave then Red Cubs a 12-point lead, and this was the final count of the game.

The Junior Altas tried to come closer. But Razon missed a three-pointer, and Nelle kept the ball in the Red Cubs’ possession with his rebound play.

  • Nelle speaks up

When it was over, Nelle ended up scoring 10 points,  five rebounds, five assists and two steals in the 25 minutes that he saw action.

It was Germy Mahinay who led with 12 points, while Josh Tagala and Ry de la Rosa added 11.

Nelle performed above his season 92, 13-game  average of  8.1 points, 3.8 rebounds, 4.7 assists and 1.2 steals.

“Masama ang laro. Seven turnovers.  Pero, sa last 3 minutes, yung defense namin, naka-stop naman. Na-rattle ang kalaban. Yun ang gusto ni coach. Bawi lang. Babawi ako,” said Nelle as he emerged from the dugout.

Coach JB Sison noted that team had 21 turnovers that almost took the fight out of the Red Cubs in this game.

He also noted that the Junior Altas have improved in their game, and that the trio of Nelle, Etrata and Tagala proved to be the team’s saving grace in terms of defense in the end.

“Nakaagaw kami sa rotation nila,” said Sison.

  • Notes:
  1. Nelle had a better average in Season 91 of 8.89 points, 2.39 rebounds, 3.67 assists, and a 40% field percentage.
  2. Nelle’s overall 2016 average after 13 games is down from last year, with his 35.1 field goal percentage.
  3. This season, he normed 8.1 points, 3.8 rebounds, 4.7 assists, and 1.2 steals.
  4. Team player ranking in terms of shooting percentage: (1) Sam Abu Hijle 55.6; (2) Germy Mahinay 53.2; (3) Lian Barbero 50; (4) Josh Tagala 47.7; (5) Peter Alfaro 47.6; (6) Robi Nayve 42.4.
  5. Win no. 5 for the Red Cubs, comes right before they were to play against the Mapua Red Robins, their eventual championship opponent.

NCAA Season 92 Junior Basketball:Warren Bonifacio rises up, the Mapua/Malayan Red Robins move up


(Notes: scribe Reuben Terrado happily shared to me that the Mapua Red Robins are a tough team this season and encouraged me to discuss more of their game).

Warren Bonifacio’s game seems to be getting better when  the Mapua/Malayan High School of Science Red Robins were in the middle of a six-game winning run.

And that was midway in the second round of the 92nd National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) junior basketball wars.


(Warren Bonifacio watches a play in progress).

As one of the veteran players of the Mapua Red Robins, the 6’4 Bonifacio had a chance to prove his worth during a crucial moment of a game.

It took place in their 92-82 win over the University of Perpetual Help Junior Altas last Aug. 25.

The Letran Squires were in a turning point in their campaign.


(Romuel Junsay).

Any setback at this stage of the eliminations was already putting their effort to reach the Final Four in trouble.

(Ongoing scenario: Last Sept. 30, the Malayan High School of Science  Red Robins are back in the finals.The second seeded Red Robins relied on a decisive stops in the fourth period to move out of range, and turn back the La Salle Greenhills Greenies, 88-81, in their Final Four showdown at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City.Transferee Will Gozum, who took over underneath after big man Sherwin Concepcion got sidelined by a left shoulder injury, made a gamehigh 16 points, including two charities that move them out of range, 79-71, in the last 4:10.In the other Final Four clash, point guard Jayson Danas scored 10 points, including three crucial free throws in the closing seconds to help the Arellano University Braves escape with an 89-84 triumph over the defending champion San Beda Red Cubs. Juaquin Garcia and Romuel Junsay added 12 for the Red Robins, with Garcia leading a 6-0 run that broke a 63-all tie in the start of the last period with a jumper).


  • Mapua 92, Letran 82

This was win no. 2 of their six-game winning streak.


(Sherwin Concepcion (left)).

This gave them a 10-2 win-loss record in second place behind the Arellano University Braves and the defending champion San Beda Red Cubs.

Both the Braves and the Red Cubs are locked in a two-way tie for the lead in this stage of the elimination round.

In another junior game of the day, the La Salle Greenhills Greenies prevailed over the Letran Squires, 71-69, to move to third place at 9-3.


(Will Gozum).

The Altas were led by Jielo Razon and Errol Bongay, who both had 18 points. Bongay had a double-double with 13 rebounds.


  • Bonifacio steps up


They were enjoying a 15-point lead, 83-68, with 6:52 to go in the fourth after Clint Escamis scored on a split free throw off Bongay’s foul.

The Junior Altas launched a 14-0 uprising, starting with Bongay’s putback, and after a couple of triples from Rob Mendoza and Razon, they came close, 82-87.


(Brian Lacap).

This was where Bonifacio came into the picture.

Bonifacio, who is from San Simon, Pampanga, averages 5.2 points 5.7 rebounds, 1.3 blocks after nine games in the first round.

He struck from underneath with a layup off Bryan Samudio’s pass, and then a three-point play in the last 1:18.

oct04coachrandy (Red Robins coach Randy Alcantara).

The Red Robins went on to post a 91-82 edge.

After that, the Junior Altas were not able to sustain their rally, with Razon and Bongay misfiring on their outside shots.

As Mike Enriquez finalized the count with his split charity, the Junior Altas went on to end the game with a 4-8 slate.

“Sabi sa akin ni coach(Randy Alcantara), kumpiyansa lang. Pag libre, tira na,” stated Bonifacio, who is in 11th grade, and is now the team captain.


-The best of Warren Bonifacio

Bonifacio is on his third year with the team, and is the youngest of four siblings.

He is ranked ninth among his teammates in playing averages, with Romuel Junsay leading with 18.4 points, 3.4 rebounds and 2.1 steals.

Among his best games were was against the Squires on Aug 9, when Bonifacio delivered 12 points and seven rebounds.

His other best game was when he also had 12 points, and made it a double-double with 15 rebounds during their 81-79 overtime win over the Jose Rizal University Light Bombers last Aug. 15.


(Here’s a link to my other story featuring Warren Bonifacio


NCAA Season 92 Junior Basketball: Sam Abu Hijle’s monster games, his birthday and the San Beda Red Cubs’ journey to greatness

For Fil-Jordanian big man Samuel Abu Hijle, Season 92 of the National Collegiate Athletic Association Junior Basketball wars could end up to be another great, and even better  year.


It turns out that he’s playing slightly better than how he played last season, as he led the Red Cubs back into the Final Four, and possibly another finals stint(something that veteran scribes Theodore Jurado and Joey Villar would be happy to take note of).


He will have a fitting birthday gift on the eve of his 19th birthday on Oct. 1, if the Red Cubs hurdle the Arellano University Braves on Friday, Sept. 30, in the start of their Final Four campaign.


(Sam Abu Hijle).

The 6-foot-3 Sam Abu Hijle finished the elimination round with an 18-game average of 13.4 points, 9.6 rebounds and 1.0 assists, who was slightly better than in Season 91 (note: his average last season was  11.94 points and 9.28 rebounds).


This was after he tallied a double-double performance of 10 points and 10 rebounds in the Red Cubs’ 92-74 triumph over the Braves in their final game in the elimination round last  Sept. 19 at the FilOil-Flying V Center in San Juan.


“Nagpa-pa condition ako before every game. I have extra work sa practice, kaya magi-improve ako every game,”said  Abu Hijle when I caught up with him early in the season.


(Peter Alfaro)

He talked about his game on July 25, the day he played his season’s best of 30 points and and 14 rebounds.


Sam’s knees got bruised up in a physically challenging encounter with the San Sebastian Staglets and the Red Cubs prevailed, 74-66, for win no. 6.


After that, Abu Hijle’s game went down, as coach JB Sison made him lay low, for around six games.


(Mark Lagumen (19)).

He emerged with what could probably be his second best output on Game 12 of the Red Cubs, who defeated the Lyceum Philippines University Junior Pirates, 80-66, on Aug. 22.


He had 27 points and 13 rebounds in this game, which proved to be among the turning points of the season.


This is because the Junior Pirates were on the verge of getting knocked out of contention, and La Salle Greenhills was then getting sure of their status in the Final Four.


(Josh Tagala(5)).

  • San Beda 74, LPU 66



The Junior Pirates stayed close with the Red Cubs until the last two minutes of the third, when they managed to come back from a 46-56 deficit.


A 6-0 comeback from charities Chester Jungco, Junjun Cecilio and Francis Ruiz saw the Junior Pirates threatening by four, 52-56, in the last 1:22.


They stayed close on another 6-0 spurt from Erlan Umpad and Jungco, 60-64, with 6:54 to go in the fourth.


(Addies Velasquez).

Then Abu Hijle took control of the boards, with his two big baskets in the last 3 minutes helping send the Red Cubs back ahead with a 14-2 run that gave them a 16-point spread with 57 ticks to go.


His layup did the trick as San Beda went on to nurse an 80-64 spread in the remaining time.


  • The Final Four and the Red Cubs


Now that the season is almost over, Abuhijle is  emerging as one of the most important players of the dominant  Red Cubs.


(Germy Mahinay (left)).

With Abuhijle submitting team high numbers again in terms of points and rebounds, the reigning seven-peat champion San Beda clinched the first Final Four berth with a 17-1 win-loss record.


This is Abuhijle’s second year playing for the Red Cubs since 2015.


He spent time in Team B in the previous years.


Just like last year, He even showed how ready the Red Cubs were to defend the crown when San Beda-Taytay made it to the finals  of the Palarong Pambansa secondary boys basketball action while representing the Calabarzon region.


They eventually won the gold.


(Note: on Sam’s exploits in 2015, here’s a link to a feature story I did on him in  season 91.


  • Getting to know Sam


Abuhijle has come a long way from where he started six years ago.


He joined organized sports as a 10-year-old playing football while in school at 7 Pillars Catholic School in Sta. Rosa Laguna.


Friends took notice of his height and introduced him to the game of basketball. He started playing pick-up games and immediately got hooked.


“Mga barkada ko sa school ang nagyaya, Laru-laro lang. Larong kalye. Doon nagsimula,” he said.


He joined the tryouts, became part of the grade school team and found himself playing for the elementary boys team of Calabarzon in the Palarong Pambansa.


  • Current scenario


The La Salle Greenhills Greenies turned to the free throw line in the last 21.1 seconds to put away the Arellano University Braves, 79-76, in their playoff last Sept. 27.


Troy Mallinlin and Joel Cagulangan sank split free throws on fouls by Carlo Abadeza and Guilmer de la Torre in the remaining 21.1 seconds and 3.6 seconds respectively.


This sent the Greenies into a Final Four showdown with the Mapua Red Robins on Friday.


Sixteen year old Unique Naboa fired a gamehigh 21 points for the Greenies.


The Greenies made it past the playoffs for the  second time in four years.


NCAA Season 92 Junior Basketball: Getting Into the Groove with Carlo Abadeza and the Arellano University Braves, and their 5-game winnng streak

The Arellano University Braves are in the playoffs, just like the Arellano University Chiefs.

This is what I was trying to tell a young sportswriter named Randolph.

For  the second straight year,  both have made it to the Final Four semifinals, with the Braves reaching the next phase of the junior division of the 92nd National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Junior Basketball wars.


(Carlo Abadeza).

They made it through, the Arellano University Braves did, after they came up with a five five-game winning run last August, and with the  game of  one of their top rebounders Carlo Abadeza picking up

-Arellano Braves 78, San Sebastian Staglets 65

Last Aug. 18, top gunner Guillmer de la Torre and the 6-foot-4 Abadeza led the  way for the Braves when the smothered the San Sebastian Staglets, 78-65.

It was the beginning of a 5-game winning run, and their second straight win put, or kept the Braves in a share of the lead with the defending champion San Beda Red Cubs.

De la Torre finished the game with 27 points and six rebounds, while Abadeza did a lot of work with 13 points and seven rebounds.


(Guilmer de la Torre).

Their game was not that challenging. But when it was over, Abadeza was elated because he was finally getting his groove and his shape back.

Statistically, he is third top performer in the Braves roster with his averages of 13.1 points, five rebounds and 1.7 assists.

He is behind de la Torre and the Braves’ no. 2 player Lars Sunga.


(Jayson Danas).

“Sobrang saya ko. Nakuha ko na ang range ko. Kasi, nung mga past games, hinahanap ko ang range ko,” said the 19-year old Carlo.

Abadeza, who was having weight issues in the first round, started getting hot in the second period.

When he got off the bench in the last 6:20 of the second period, and replaced Sunga, things started moving fast for the Braves.


(Aaron Fermin (18) watches as teammate Lars Sunga (4)goes for a basket.

With Abadeza patrolling the lanes, the Braves let Staglet Damie Cuntapay score on a split free throw before they made their big moves.

A 23-0 blast followed after de la Torre struck with a three.

Then, Abadeza followed up de la Torre’s trey with two charities off Cuntapay during their pullaway.


(Lars Sunga).

In all de la Torre hit 15 points during that 4-minute scoring binge, and the Braves went on to post a 44-21 halftime lead.

Abadeza joined up with other big men like Aaron Fermin in shutting down the Staglets’ scorers.

His use of speed and intimidation under the boards helped keep SSC from scoring crucial points.



(Koby de Leon).

And, with Cuntapay as the Staglets top scorer with 15 points, did not get any scoring support from another prolific teammate Kenneth Villapondo after he was held to just 2 in the third.

With it, the Braves stayed ahead by 15, 57-42, at the end of the third.

When it was over, coach Braves coach Tylon Darjuan said boys are finally doing what they were supposed to do.

“Aware na sila sa mga pumapatay sa aming laro. Una, pinababayaan nila pag nilayuan. Tapos, hahabol ang kalaban. Sabi ko, wag nang bigyan nang kumpiyansa ang mga gumagawa,” said Darjuan.

He later talked about Abadeza’s good showing that morning.

“Kilala ko ang laro. Alam ko na may ilalabas na laro iyan,” added Darjuan, noted that Abadeza’s consistency under the board last season made him a member so the season 91 Mythical Five and Best Defensive Player.


  • Carlo Abadeza and his need to lose weight

The last time Abadeza played, he made only seven points and nine rebounds when they beat the Emilio Aguinaldo College Brigadiers, 90-64, a win which serves as the start of their five-game winning run.

And that’s below his average. Fermin picked up the slack with 17 points and 11 boards.

This time, things turned around with what he’s doing.

“Hirap ako sa shape ko. Sobrang wala ako sa shape. Kaya pinilit kong magbawas ng timbang,” added Abadeza.

He admitted that he got overconfident during his off-the-court preparations, and did not see the need to lose weight at first.

But Darjuan noticed that he had gained bulk and weighed over 200 lbs.

“Umabot ako ng 200-lbs. Buti na lang nag-stepup si Aaron(Fermin),” said Abadeza, who is his final  year with the Braves.

With the loss, the Staglets have dropped to the bottom of the standings.

  • Current Scenario


  1. The Arellano University Braves and the La Salle Greenhills Junior Blazers share third and fourth position with similar 13-5 win-loss records.


  1. They will meet on Tuesday to determine which among the Red Cubs and the Red Robins will be their semis opponent.


  1. This scenario is taking place after Sept. 22’s game when big man Will Gozum provided both speed and muscle under the boards as the Malayan High School of Science Red Robins overpowered the Emilio Aguinaldo College-ICA Brigadiers, 112-75, the last elimination round game season.


  1. The Red Robins who finished their 18-game assignment with 15 wins and three losses.


  1. This formally earned the Red Robins the no. 2 seeding in the Final Four semifinals.


  1. The Red Robins are  behind the top finishing squad, the defending champion San Beda Red Cubs, who took the no. 1 with their 17-1 win-loss slate.


  1. On Sept. 19, sharpshooting Evan Nelle and Robi Nayve struck with 19 and 16 points for the defending champion San Beda Red Cubs, who got back at the Arellano University Braves, 92-74, and formally earned the top Final Four seeding.


(Footnote: Out of zeal, I asked a rookie scribe Randolph, who is one year in the sports beat, about who among the Braves are the best players who can lead the team to glory.

Well, he knows something about Jiovani Jalalon and Donald Gumaru being among the best players in the Chiefs lineup.

And he knows nada about Guilmer de la Torre, not one of their bigs Carlo Abadeza, and even Lars Sunga, as being among the top players in the Braves roster over the last three years.

As a 30-year veteran, I was dumbfounded that he did not take the initiative, nor taken the extra mile to learn more about the Braves. This far in the tournament, the  San Beda College, Mapua Institite Technology, Arellano University have teams in the Final Four, both in the senior and junior divisions (Many scribes who are a year or less in the beat are usually curious, and will find things out on their own, just like Ramon Bonilla).

And to ease this pain of mine that the College of St. Benilde Blazers won only one game this season, knowing that La Salle Greenhills is also in the Final Four is refreshing.

(Since I am attending a marriage retreat this weekend, and thinking about Randolph before bedtime, I just included him in my prayers. And its with the thought that someday, he will grow up to be a better person. And so, I will just let all this pass and continue on).

Anyway, this piece ain’t about Randolph.

Its about initiative and taking, and going the extra mile.)