Site of historic Mendiola rallies turns into party place as San Beda fetes NCAA champs
San Beda players Art dela Cruz and Kyle Pascual celebrate with students and alumni. Karlo Sacamos

IT’S never too late to celebrate a championship that continued to mark your basketball dominance in the country's oldest collegiate league.

More than two weeks after capturing a fifth straight NCAA men’s basketball crown and eighth over the last nine years, San Beda hosted a victory party outside its Mendiola campus on Friday night.

The street in Manila where rallies are usually held was closed for traffic once again, but it was for San Beda players, students, alumni, and fans, who all danced, drank, and partied like there was no tomorrow.

Red Lions star Art dela Cruz, though, admitted this edition of the annual gathering was held later than previous championship celebrations.

“Medyo late na yung celebration,” he said in a chat with during the party. “Dapat nung first week pa lang (after the title conquest), pero thankful pa rin na binigyan kami ng victory party.”

It was the worth the wait as the hosts managed to hold a grander celebration, with a stage set up this time for the DJs who mixed the party music the audience danced to.

“Mas maganda this year, kasi nakapag-prepare sila talaga for us, talagang pinakilala pa nila kami sa stage,” Dela Cruz said, shouting to be heard in the din of the celebration.

“Hindi kami iniiwan ng fans namin,” the versatile lefty forward continued. “Kahit tapos na yung laro, nandito pa rin sila, sumusuporta sa amin.

“Inaabangan talaga nila ‘tong victory party lagi.”

Graduating center Kyle Pascual came late from Smart-Araneta Coliseum, his mood turning from bad to good after his pro team, Kia Sorento, suffered an 85-62 beating at the hands of Talk ‘N Text earlier.

“Better late than never,” the Filipino-American slotman said.

Fellow big man Ola Adeogun was also present, but didn’t drink alcohol despite several offers from students to take a shot as he had to attend Happee practice on Saturday morning.

“Hindi ko kaya pag naka-inom ako sa gabi eh,” the Nigeran behemoth said.

All the Red Lions, though obliged to all photo requests — the least they can do for their ever-supportive fans.

Follow the writer on Twitter: @KarloSacamos