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Red Robins claw in fourth spot in NCAA 98

Article by: Albert L. Dela Cruz and Frances Qarl M. Tolosa
Photo by: Kristin Clarisse H. Mateo

Last March 6, the Mapúa Red Robins fought tooth and nail against the Colegio de San Juan de Letran (CSJL) Squires, but came up short, 78-83, to end their National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Season 98 Junior’s Basketball Tournament journey as the fourth seed at the San Andres Sports Complex.
Lacing up

Not playing a regulation game since NCAA Season 95, the red and gold squad had its sights locked on glory this season. In an interview with Red Robins Team Captain Norde Joseph Manuel, he shared that their preparation for NCAA Season 98 was challenging, considering that they had two to three training sessions a day. Aside from this, they also conducted a tune-up that gave them “an insight on what type of team we would be in the NCAA,”

“Mahaba po ‘yung oras na inilaan namin para sa season na ‘to. Sipag at tiyaga po ang ibinigay namin para umabot kami kung nasaan kami ngayon.” Fellow Red Robin Nico Mulingtapang added.

Despite the three-year hiatus in the NCAA scene, Manuel imparted his confidence and high hopes for the team before the start of the tournament. “We all had good chemistry with each other and in the games, we had leading into NCAA,” he said.

Rising above expectations

Mapúa’s junior team went through the elimination round at the Emilio Aguinaldo College (EAC) Gymnasium, wherein they started their campaign with a win against the College of Saint Benilde – La Salle Green Hills (LSGH) Greenies, 74-70. The home squad’s dominance was on full display in the games that followed as the ballers effortlessly defused the Jose Rizal University Light Bombers, 76-62, after an explosive third quarter, outscoring their rivals following a 22-4 run after a slow start in the first half.

In their third game, the team maintained its dominant form to cruise past the University of Perpetual Help System DALTA System Junior Altas, 75-66. Staying unscathed, the red and yellow jerseys tamed the San Beda University (SBU) Red Cubs with a 76-62 victory, extending their hot streak to rise with a 4-0 standing.

However, in their fifth elimination match, the Red Robins suffered their first loss at the hands of the Lyceum of the Philippines University Junior Pirates, 66-70. Still, this did not hinder the team from rising above the challenges in the next two battles as they conquered the Arellano University Braves with a 70-68 win and the EAC Brigadiers with a commanding 86-63 score to get back on the winning track. The home team then went up against the San Sebastian College-Recoletos (SSC-R) Staglets, but fell short by two points, 58-60. Though they strived to bounce back from this, a 67-85 loss against the CSJL Squires marked the team’s third loss to end the elims round.

With the Red Robins, LSGH Greenies, SBU Red Cubs, and SSC-R Staglets tallying a 6-3 win-loss record, the team entered the playoff picture, while the CSJL Squires held a twice-to-beat advantage following an 8-1 win-loss slate.

Following the playoffs, the first game pitted the SBU Red Cubs and SSC-R Staglets against each other, wherein the Mendiola-based squad pushed the Staglets out of the Final Four contention to advance to the next round. Set to compete in the second round of the playoffs, the Red Robins went all-in to take down the Red Cubs but endured a 75-86 loss. This pushed the Intramuros-based squad to arrange a duel against its neighbor, the CSJL Squires.

Focusing in the zone

Maintaining an impressive record, the Robins tried to keep their walls high against the top seed CSJL Squires to move a hoop closer to the finals of the season. Clashing head-on during the first quarter, the home team managed to get ahead with two points as they strived to defeat the twice-to-beat troop. Despite the bold attempts to maintain the lead, the flight of red and gold came to its landing after the Intramuros neighbor, which eventually became the season’s champions following their win over the LSGH Greenies, left them with a five-point disadvantage.

“Even though we fell short [in the game], it was very relieving that we at least got into the Final Four. […] We worked really hard in the off-season, and we wouldn’t waste those hard training sessions in the NCAA, and we proved it by making it in the Final Four,” the Team Captain shared. Seeing the work put into their training pay off, he also shared that the grand final four finish was the highlight of the season for him as he shared his experience with being back on the court.

Fueled by passion, Manuel also conveyed the mindset of the team that he imparted as the leader of the squad. “Be hungrier and not overthink their mistakes and just always play with their hearts and leave everything on the floor,” he stated.

“I believe this team is well capable of winning it all,” Manuel stated. After a season filled with tenacity, the Team Captain emphasized that the Mapúa Red Robins are filled with more grit than ever to make the court beam red and gold as they will work harder for the championship title in the next season.
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