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 Spin.ph 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.
PLAY BY PLAY
(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).