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Henry Liao

LOYZAGA'S GLORIOUS BEDAN DAYS

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With the National Collegiate Athletic Association debut of the venerable Carlos (Caloy) Loyzaga in 1951, the San Beda College Red Lions mightily roared back to championship level.

Over a five-year period, the Benedictine-run school romped away with four titles, including three NCAA crowns.

Loyzaga averaged nearly 20 points per game as San Beda claimed the 1951 NCAA diadem. *The multi-dimensional 6-3 slotman’s supporting cast included Ponciano Saldaña, Eduardo Lim, Antonio Genato and brothers Pablo and Vicente Cuna.

The Red Lions successfully defended their crown the following year, knocking off De La Salle, 50-39, in the finals before a mammoth crowd of 11,000 at the Rizal memorial Coliseum.

Loyzaga scored a game-high 18 points, including 10 in the decisive fourth quarter, and put the defensive clamps on De La Salle’s towering Rene Wassmer during the same stretch.

The Green Archers had rallied to take a 32-31 lead at the end of the third quarter. *But Caloy staged a last-quarter one-man show, blocking Wassmer in mid-air then dribbling through for a layup to bring the advantage back to the Red Lions, 33-32.

After connecting on a free throw, Loyzaga tallied seven more points to douse any comeback by De La Salle, which scored just seven markers in the final 10 minutes.

In 1952, San Beda College also snared the prestigious National Open crown, which was considered the biggest plum in local hoopdom at the time as it featured the country’s top commercial clubs and prominent college teams in action.

Thanks to his outstanding performance for the year, the influential Philippine Sportswriters Association (PSA) bestowed the title “Mr. Basketball of 1952” on Loyzaga.

Loyzaga’s dominating exploits can be gleaned from one newspaper report dated January 16, 1953 that stated the following: *“Carlos (Pomfret) Loyzaga stepped once more into his familiar role of San Beda’s big hero when he single-handedly beat the star-studded Yco Redshirts, 29-28, in the National Open tournament with a glittering 17-point overall performance.”

Played before an audience of 8,000 at the Rizal Coliseum, the game, which the defending champion Red Lions won on a charity shot by Loyzaga in the final five seconds, actually mirrored Caloy’s entire cage life.

Issuing slick passes, making pivot shots and barrelling his way into the shaded lane were his signature moves.

In 1953, Ateneo de Manila, behind high-leaping and league Most Valuable Player Francisco (Frankie) Rabat, stripped the NCAA crown from the Red Lions’ head, however.

The Blue Eagles stopped Loyzaga and his San Beda backups, 63-59, in the finals.

Ateneo made it two titles in a row the following campaign as San Beda was disoriented by the absence of Loyzaga for academic reasons.

Because Caloy was not in a position to impose his will at the shaded lane against the opposition, the Red Lions were badly beaten by the Blue Eagles, 74-65, for the championship.

With San Beda and Ateneo each having crowned themselves as champions twice during the four-year period, the stage was clear for a rematch between the two powerhouse schools for the right to claim permanent possession of the prestigious three-legged Crispulo Zamora Cup that was awarded by the NCAA to the first team that won three titles after World War II.

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