WHILE all the attention seems to be on the red-hot Lyceum of the Philippines University Pirates who are unbeaten in the senior division things are likewise heating up in the junior division of the 93rd National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) basketball tournament.
The Mapua Red Robins and the La Salle Greenhills Greenies are fast emerging as the most dominant squads in the junior division of the NCAA basketball tournament.
This is quite unlike past seasons, when the San Beda Red Cubs were the dominant force.
Over the past two weeks, the Red Robins posted two victories that put them in the solo lead with a 10-2 win-loss record.
Their latest win was when they put away Emilio Aguinaldo College Brigadiers, 82-68, on Thursday evening at the Arena in San Juan.
Last Sept. 8 was a shocker.
In a battle of league titans the Red Robins came away with a 73-71 beating of the San Beda Red Cubs.
In this game, Carl Lacap hurt his right hand during a steal in the first quarter. But he still came up with a timely steal in the last 3.8 seconds.
Lacap snatched the ball away from Addie Velasquez during a battle for ball possession and set up Will Gozum for two winning charities.
Against the Brigadiers, two of their starters, big man Warren Bonifacio and guard Joaqui Garcia came up with big plays that contributed to the Red Robins’ 10th win in 12 matches.
The Red Robins are now ahead of the La Salle Greenhills in the standings.
Red Robins coach Randy Alcantara said they’ll be needing four more wins in order to secure a twice-to-beat incentive in the Final Four.
Meanwhile, the Greenies are likewise doing well.
Shooting guard Joshua David joined Joel Cagulangan in coming up with big plays that allowed the La Salle Greenhills Greenies to eke out a 90-83 triumph over the Lyceum Junior Pirates.
The 17-year-old David first shattered an 82-all deadlock with his drive in the last 1:39 of the game.
Then, Junior Pirates hotshot Mclaude Guadana missed a triple off David’s defense in the next play.
After Vincent Cunanan missed another trey in the next play, the Greenies moved ahead by six points off a putback by Josh Marcos and Cagulangan, 88-82, with 21.3 seconds left.
“Nagtulong-tulong kami. Teamwork ito,” said David.
LSGH coach Marvin Bienvenida said the team is continuing to get better.
“They were missing their outside shots, and they were making a lot of it in the first,” said Bienvenida.
Guadana powered the Pirates with 22 points, while Neil Ruiz added 19.
Trying to catch up to the leaders are the San Sebastian Staglets who drew double digit outputs from four mainstays to put away the Emilio Aguinaldo College Brigadiers, 80-62, at the Arena in San Juan.
Lewis Pasamante, Romel Calahat, Alex Desoyo and Bryan Pelias scored 12, 11, 11 and 10 points to lead the Staglets to their third consecutive win.
This gave the Staglets their fifth win in 10 matches.
This moved them to fifth spot to stay in contention for a Final Four berth.
“Kailangan naming manalo para makapasok sa Final Four,” said Staglets coach Melo Banua.
The Staglets broke free from a 15-all deadlock in the second period.
Calahat dominated the boards to come up with 17 rebounds. Reserve players Jessie Sumoda and Ameer Aguilar combined for 11 points.
Their efforts helped the Staglets take a 34-26 cushion at halftime.
Maui Cruz hit 16 points for the Brigadiers, who fell behind at 1-9.
The Staglets outrebounded the Brigadiers, 58-32, with injured Damie Cuntapay adding his share of nine points and 14 boards.