Two basketball programs that are worlds apart

The San Beda Red Cubs are worlds apart from the Lyceum Junior Pirates. (Photo by Gilbert Malabute)

San Beda's high school basketball program has long been regarded as the very best in the country.  Under the legendary juniors mentor Edmundo Badolato, more popularly known as "Coach Ato," it has produced countless of notable alumni that made a mark in local basketball, including two-time PBA MVP Benjie Paras, PBA's All-Time 25 Greatest Players member Ronnie Magsanoc, two-time PBA Mythical Second Team member Dindo Pumaren, former PBA Rookies of the Year Gerry Esplana (1990), Boybits Victoria (1994) and Ren-ren Ritualo (2002), 2009 Mythical First Team member and Most Improved Player LA Tenorio, former Smart Gilas top point guard JV Casio, National University coach Eric Altamirano, PBA campaigners Ogie Menor and Magnum Membrere, and collegiate stand-outs Nico Salva, Dave Marcelo, Garvo Lanete and Baser Amer.

But now the Red Cubs are pursuing a higher level of greatness, with former Badolato understudy Britt Reroma as head coach for the third straight year.  It's a new era now for the 19-time NCAA champions, even when they continue with the old winning formula set by Coach Ato.  This 88th NCAA Season, the Cubs are gunning for a four-peat, and 20th over-all league juniors title that would set a new record.  Mapua is at second with 18 high school crowns.

As expected, the Cubs opened the year with a bang, posting an emphatic 104-70 win over Arellano High.  But what made a louder statement was their recent annihilation of Lyceum, 171-14, a probable league record.  That is not a typo. Lyceum really scored only 14 points. This game is a candidate for several records in the NCAA's 88-year history, including biggest winning margin (157 points), highest score by a team (171 points), lowest score by a team (14 points), lowest halftime score by a team (2 points), highest halftime score by a team (92 points), highest score in a quarter by a team (49 points), most turnovers by a team (63 turnovers), and most turnover points by a team (105 points).  Lyceum also probably set another dubious mark by going scoreless in the opening quarter.

Four Cubs actually each outscored the Junior Pirates — Ranbill Tongco (27), Alejandro Inigo (19), Javee Mocon (16) and Evan Furaque (16).  In contrast, only two players scored for Lyceum — Aldwin Ligot with 12 markers, and Miguel Lagman with 2.  Ligot was the only player who scored field goals for the Intramuros-based team, on 6-of-8 shooting.  Lagman's points came from two free throws in the fourth period.

The embarrassing defeat placed LPU in hot water, as its league membership remained in probationary status.  NCAA Man-Com chair Fr. Vic Calvo, OP, of host Letran, remarked, "This is bad for the league," after that game.

Last year, the Cubs also posted its most imposing victory against the same team, 168-33.

But in fairness to the Junior Pirates, Lyceum's high school basketball program was set up just two years ago, as a requirement for admission in the NCAA.  The team is based in the university's Cavite campus, and its players are new in high-level basketball competitions.  The Red Cubs, in contrast, are on the top of the food chain.

Through the years, there have been several batches of Red Cubs that dominated most high school tournaments, including the NCAA.  Blow out wins, just like the one over Lyceum, had been a regular feast for the Mendiola-based teens for decades.

Probably the first real dominant batch was that of Magsanoc, Paras, Altamirano, Pumaren, Macky De Joya, and Esplana, who all became PBA stars.  This 1983 NCAA champion squad dominated the competition that year in many different leagues.

The next powerhouse batch of Cubs ruled the NCAA in 1996, with an unblemished record.  This team included Reroma, Ritualo, Jenkins Mesina, Mark Jomalesa, Xavier Nunag, Mike Bravo, Mico Roldan and Adrian Ronquillo.

The troop of Arjun Cordero, Tenorio and Membrere was also formidable in 1999.

Then in 2002, a crew composed of Casio, James Martinez, Ford Arao, Mike Baldos, Yuri Escueta, JR Agbayani, Arvie Braganza and a young Menor, likewise wreaked havoc in the NCAA.

A few years ago, San Beda's high school moved to its Taytay campus, where it became a little more challenging to recruit prospects.  But soon after, Badolato and Reroma collaborated to bring back the Cubs to their winning ways.  They stopped the four-year reign of the San Sebastian Staglets (2005-2008), and established their own, from 2009 to 2011.  Among the stalwarts of this three-peat were Amer, Art Dela Cruz, Yvan Ludovice, Francis Abarcar, Jun Bonsubre, Dave Moralde, Dan Sara and Von Abatayo, who are now all part of the Red Lions camp, and La Salle's LA Revilla and Pons Gotladera, Ateneo's Giboy Babilonia, and UE's Chris Javier.

And this year, the Cubs are on a mission to score a fourth straight title, and their 20th over-all, with new heroes in former national youth team stand-outs Arvin Tolentino, Tongco, Andrei Caracut and Rev Diputado, plus recent Fil-Oil Cup MVP Mocon, Inigo, Furaque, Paolo Brojan, Lance Abude, Franz Abuda (son of ex-PBA defense specialist Freddie Abuda), Benjie De Villeres, Carlitos Romero, Paolo Macapayag, Niko Abatayo and JR Gumtang.

But serious contention can be expected from the Letran Squires, San Sebastian Staglets, and last year's runners-up CSB Junior Blazers.

After this season, only three Cubs will be graduating — Brojan, Macapayag and Inigo.  So if Reroma and his deputies, Jomalesa, Troy Umali, Manu Inigo and VL Sandalo, all former Cubs, and Andy Mejos, can lead their charges to victory this season, San Beda High will be on track to equal Mapua's five-peat record (1968-1972) in Season 89, and solidify its position as probably Asia's best high school basketball program.

Meanwhile, Lyceum Athletics Director Herc Callanta remains optimistic about the school's future.  "LPU plans to establish a comprehensive program that will not only discover talents within Southern Luzon area but also make a contribution towards their enhancement and empowerment through its sports services such as seminars and workshops, as well as talent identification programs to be launched within two years," said Callanta.

The Junior Pirates are actually based in Lyceum's Cavite campus, which was just established three years ago.

"Presently, there are five basketball players establishing residency, who are slated to play next season.  We are also scouting for two more players who can be directly recruited to play next year.  These seven "new" players for next year will definitely contribute to a better performance.  The LPU Cavite basketball program is still in its infancy stage, thus the very glaring discrepancy of our players compared with schools with already established programs," added Callanta.

Last year, the Junior Pirates absorbed an average losing margin of 76 points.  They only collected a season low 38.1 points per game in 2011.

They may have a chance for redemption however when they face Emilio Aguinaldo College on July 7, which suffered a 49-104 blow out to Arellano last June 25.

Editor's note: The blogger's views do not represent Yahoo! Southeast Asia's position on the topic or issue being discussed in this post.