To many, it came as no surprise that the San Beda Red Lions succeeded in redeeming themselves of the stinging defeat a year ago. In less than a week ago, the multi-titled Red Lions reclaimed the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) crown to annex their 20th title via a 2-0 sweep of the Arellano University Chiefs in a best-of-three finals series. San Beda’s 20 NCAA championships equal the 20 UAAP plums of Far Eastern University.
Before the 92nd NCAA Season started, Arellano and San Beda were tagged as the top contenders, with the former as a slight favorite over the latter. From last year’s runner-up finish, the Mendiola-based squad lost three of its main guys that spearheaded a five-year title-run in the NCAA – former Finals MVP’s Baser Amer and Arth Dela Cruz, who are now both making waves in the pros, and 6’9” Nigerian behemoth Ola Adeogun. Moreover, this year’s batch has nine first-timers in the NCAA, with only one graduating player, three juniors, and two sophomores. This young crew was the one tasked to bring back the diadem to Mendiola.
“Redemption 2.0” was the battle cry of most San Beda faithful as they seek to gain back the NCAA crown they lost to the Letran Knights last year. In 2010, the Red Lions rebounded from the 2009 loss to San Sebastian with a vengeance, sweeping their way to victory. Bannered by the likes of Garvo Lanete, Borgie Hermida, Dave Marcelo, Jake Pascual, Rome Dela Rosa, Kyle Pascual, Semerad twins Anthony and David, Anjo Caram and American recruit Sudan Daniel, the Red Lions got back at Calvin Abueva and Co. and completed an 18-0 romp that year to complete “Redemption 1.0.”
But disaster struck early this year as starting center Donald Tankoua busted his right knee that ended his season just after two games in the second round. This has certainly cast doubts on the Red Lions’ ability to rule the tournament, especially with the rise of other strong contenders. This was also a season that saw the team being bludgeoned by opponents, as in the case of the second round defeat to the Jose Rizal Heavy Bombers where the Lions fell by as many as 27 points. This was something unseen in the last ten years.
Second year coach Jamike Jarin however got his wards together just in time even as they were forced to a semis rubber match by the Perpetual Help Altas. But in the finals, team captain Dan Sara and the reliable Javee Mocon rallied their team and got a huge lift from rookies Davon Potts, Robert Bolick, Ben Adamos and eventual finals MVP Arnaud Noah. The Lions shut down Arellano’s dynamic duo of Jio Jalalon and Kent Salado to earn the hard-fought title-clinching victory, and complete “Redemption 2.0.”
Could this be the start of another Red Dynasty? With only Sara as the graduating player, San Beda will have an intact roster next year. Aside from the nine rookies that also include William Navarro, JB Bahio, Kenneth Alas and Calvin Oftana – all over 6’4” – and former La Salle Greenhills guard Kyle Carlos, San Beda has in its Team B Gilas Cadet 6’8” slotman Kemark Carino and former Ateneo Blue Eagle Clint Doliguez, among other worthy candidates. Its recruitment program is among the best in the country. This is why the Red Lions have won nine of the last eleven NCAA championships.
Equally triumphant is Mapua’s high school squad, the Red Robins, which not only ended a 16-year title drought but also quashed San Beda’s seven-year championship run. Like the Lions, the Robins also bagged their 20th NCAA Juniors crown.
Kudos also to Dr. Jay Adalem and his St. Clare College of Caloocan Saints team for capturing the National Athletic Association of Schools, Colleges and Universities (NAASCU) title with a close 64-62 win over the Our Lady of Fatima University Phoenix in the winner-take-all Game 3 of the finals. Meanwhile, in Cebu City, the University of Vizayas Green Lancers walloped the University of San Carlos Warriors, 76-60, in Game 1 of the CESAFI’s best-of-five finals.
More exciting college basketball games will come our way in the weeks to come.