A changing of the guards could be looming in National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) high school basketball.
Making the decisive plays in the dying seconds, Arellano slew seven-peat champion San Beda, 93-90, on Monday to snatch the solo lead in the NCAA Season 92 juniors basketball tournament at The Arena in San Juan City.
Guillmer dela Torre and Lars Sunga took turns in offense in the stretch while Aaron Fermin did the rest on defense as the Braves snared their eighth straight win to jump to the top and leave the Cubs at No. 2 with a 7-1 (win-loss) record.
“I just told my player not to get intimidated and the players did just that,” said Arellano coach Tylon Darjuan.
Dela Torre wound up with a game-best 28 points, 22 of which came in the second half when he decided to take charge, while Sunga ended up with 16 points, half in the final period that kept Arellano in the game.
While dela Torre and Sunga did the scoring, the 6’5 Fermin did the dirty job with 11 points, 13 rebounds and a season-high seven blocks, including one against San Beda’s Sam Abu Hijle with 5.4 seconds to go and the Braves up by just two points.
Darjuan said he had to travel to a far-flung place in Nueva Ecija on a recommendation by the late Gilber Bulawan, who played for Blackwater in the Philippine Basketball Association before his recent passing, just to get Fermin.
“It took me six hours from Manila just to get to him,” said Darjuan of Fermin, who hails from Licab, a fourth-class Nueva Ecija municipality.
The game could serve as a sneak preview to this year’s finals as the two fought to 21 lead changes and 11 deadlocks.