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  1. NCAA SEASON 88: HISTORY BECKONS FOR THE RED LIONS

    The current San Beda College Red Lions team is on track to become the first school in National Collegiate Athletic Association history to capture at least three consecutive titles on three occasions.

    In the 87 previous seasons of the NCAA, the oldest athletic association in the Philippines, there have been six instances where a team won the championship in “three-peat” fashion, including twice by the Red Lions.

    The University of the Philippines Parrots (now known as the Fighting Maroons) romped away with the crown in the league’s first three seasons from 1924 to 1926.

    Ateneo de Manila duplicated the feat in 1931, 1932 and 1933. The Blue Eagles, however, left the NCAA in 1978 following the violence that had become rampant in the games. The school has since joined the rival University Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP).

    San Beda College won three titles in a row from 1934 to 1936 and from 2006 to 2008.

    The Red Lions have an opportunity to do it again this year, having emerged victorious in 2010 and 2011 with a finals win over the San Sebastian College-Recoletos Stags each time.

    In 2010, SBC registered a lily-white 18-0 record. It marked the fourth time in NCAA history – and the first since 1997 – that a team finished the season with a perfect slate en route to the league crown. The 1997 SSC-R Golden Stags swept the double-round elimination phase among the seven participating schools for a 12-0 mark and an automatic championship. The Red Lions would go on to win their first eight assignments during the 2011 wars for an NCAA record-setting 26-game winning streak over two seasons.

    Colegio de San Juan de Letran was the fourth team to annex three straight NCAA championship hardware when the Knights, behind high-flying Avelino (Samboy) Lim, won all the marbles in 1982, 1983 and 1984.

    Of course, the NCAA record for most consecutive championships belongs to San Sebastian College-Recoletos. Baste was NCAA kingpin for five straight seasons from 1993 to 1997.

    Season Most Valuable Player Jesse Bardaje and rookie Ulysses Tanigue were the key figures in the Golden Stags’ 1993 title run. That year, SSC’s Arturo (Turo) Valenzona won his first championship as an NCAA coach.

    In 1994, the Golden Stags duplicated their 1988 counterparts’ 10-0 finish (the first team in NCAA history to win the seniors crown with an undefeated record) behind season MVP Rodney Santos and rookie Romel Adducul.

    The next season, SSC-R jumped to a 9-0 start for a 19-game winning skein overall. The Stags dropped their 10th and final regular season assignment to eventual second-round pennant winner Mapua Tech but swept the Cardinals in the best-of-three finals to finish with an 11-1 record and become the fifth team to accomplish a title “three-peat.”

    In 1996, NCAA history was made when SSC-R claimed its fourth consecutive championship with a two-game sweep of second-round pennant winner San Beda College in the best-of-three finals and a 12-2 overall mark behind league MVP Adducul.

    Adducul earned back-to-back MVP honors and a fourth straight championship the following campaign as the Stags won all their 13 outings (including a 12-0 card during the regular wars). With a twice-to-beat advantage, the Golden Stags needed to defeat San Beda College only once in the finals and successfully made short work of the Red Lions.

    The 1997 SSC-R unit was mentored by rookie Arturo (Bay) Cristobal. It is considered by many as the most dominant team ever in NCAA annals. The so-called Sensational Six – Adducul, Aramis (Banjo) Calpito, Jasper Ocampo, Tanigue, Brixter Encarnacion and team skipper Rommel Daep – all won their fourth title rings, with Adducul, Calpito and Ocampo doing it consecutively since 1994.

    Other members of the legendary championship squad were Jerome Barbosa, Michael (Topex) Robinson, Alvin Pua and then-rookie Mark Macapagal.
  2. NCAA Season 88: Still a Lion's League

    Now in its 88th season, the NCAA, the country's oldest and most historic athletic tournament opened at the Big Dome in typical glitzy fashion last weekend. As usual the basketball titles in both the men's and high school divisions are the centerpieces of the league. It should be no surprise to anyone that San Beda College is the prohibitive favorite to retain the titles in both caging divisions. Whatever else anyone may have to say, the road to the NCAA Season 88 basketball titles will still run through the gates of St Beda.

    Essentially the NCAA has been the stomping ground of the Red Lions since the 82nd Season, when guard Pong Escobal and Nigerian giant Sam Ekwe suited up for the Red and White. They've gone on to win five of the last six titles, including three straight from 2006-2008. Their title run was interrupted by the San Sebastian Golden Stags in the 2009 season, when the San Sebastian roster was revamped and rebooted to inlcude current superstars Calvin Abueva and Ian Sangalang. It has been a San Beda-San Sebastian rivalry over the last couple of seasons since then.

    That might be what makes the NCAA now not quite as exciting as it used to be, maybe even just 10 years ago. "The NCAA is essentially a league with one super strong team, two strong teams, and then everyone else," noted a veteran online sports writer who works for a popular global web site. "Outside of those three teams there just isn't much competition in the league anymore. The bottom teams are really struggling, and watching the games can sometimes be a trying experience," he added.

    Let's take a look at each team ___

    Arellano University: Coach Leo Isaac will lean heavily on his perimeter since he really doesn't have much size to bank on. The veteran guard combo of Rocky Acidre and Vergel Zulueta will elad the Chiefs, together with 6-foot-2 Filipino-Foreigner swingman James Forrester. They'll be running a lot of motion and staggered screens because if they cannot get out and run. 6-foot off-guard Adam Serjue, another expatriate of Filipino lineage, could have been a big boost but got injured before the season could even begin. 6-foot-6 Prince Caperal and 6-foot-3 freshman rookie Julius Cadavis are as good as it gets up front for Arellano. They will likely finish under .500 this season.

    College of St Benilde: With arguably the best backcourt in the NCAA if not the entirety of college basketball nationwide, the Blazers will try to outrun and out-quick the opposition this season. Led by the electric Carlo Lastimosa, the Blazers will also be banking on Jonathan Grey, JP Taha and Luis Singco. If they can get consistent production out of their frontline, more than the usual rebounds and interior defense, they actually have a shot at the Final 4. But Jan Tan, Bart Bartolo, and Tyler Fikowski work hard but aren't really elite big men. St Benilde might still make a Final 4 run on the strength of their backcourt though.

    Emilio Aguinaldo College: Pining for the days of yore might be the in thing for the Generals. Once upon a time they had some of the best players in all of college ball, like PBA star Ronjay Buenafe, and hardcourt legend Nino Songco. Now they have essentially a smallish team trying to keep up with the big boys. Jan Jamon had a great season on a bad team last year, but barely stirred in the summer. Russell Yaya was Ok over the summer and looks to continue that in Season 88, leading the Generals over Arellano in their last game with 17 markers. Head coach Gerry Esplana hopes to get some more out of guard John Tayontong and forward Noube Happi. This is a team looking at the wrong side of .500 ball.

    Jose Rizal University: Loaded with veterans but short on size, the Heavy Bombers of head coach Vergel Meneses have a legit shot at making the Final 4. They have a pretty good blend with guards Alex Almario, Jon Villarias and Nate Matute, forwards Jon Lopez and Ralph Monserat, and undersized centers Raymond Carampil and Jon Mabulac. They have one of the best full court pressing defenses in the league, and they can score inside-outside. This is a team that nearly upended reigning UAAP champion Ateneo in the Fr Martin Cup Finals. They will have to figure out a way to match up against the taller timber though.

    Letran: Head coach Louie Alas preaches toughness, defense and sharing the ball, except perhaps where his son Kevin is concerned. Kevin scored 31 points in their big opening day win over mighty San Sebastian, with the 5-foot-11 guard showcasing the new skills he learned on a month-long personal training camp in the US. Alas father and son are the real engine driving the Knights' train, and they should find their way easily enough into the Final 4 in their Hosting Year this year. Mark Cruz, Jon Belorio and Kevin Racal will provide plenty of support.

    Lyceum: This is another team that was much better before ...

 
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