San Beda, Mapua clash for NCAA juniors crown
Andrei Caracut and the rest of the San Beda Red Cubs are looking to win a sixth straight NCAA juniors basketball title at the expense of old rival Mapua Red Robins. Jerome Ascano

THE distinction of being the country’s most successful high school basketball program is up for grabs on Saturday when San Beda and Mapua clash for the NCAA juniors’ basketball crown at the Mall of Asia Arena.

Both schools are tied with 20 juniors’ championships and the winner of the 2:30 p.m. decider will become the winningest high school basketball squad in the country's oldest cage league.

The Red Robins drew first blood, 84-75, in the opener, before the Red Cubs sent the best-of-three series into sudden death with a 78-68 victory in Game Two.

The series-tying win allowed San Beda to also keep its lofty bid of capturing a sixth straight title alive.

But its Mapua that has been on a resurgence this season after finishing the eliminations on top following numerous campaigns of falling short as it hopes to capture its first title since 2000.

“Sila ang number one team sa high school, so I expect na lalaban yan,” Red Cubs coach JB Sison said. “We need to play hard, especially on our defense.”

It was defense that spelled the difference for the Cubs in knotting the series in Game Two where they limited the Red Robins to 16 points less than their output in Game One.

Red Robins standout Warren Bonifacio was also held to just three points after scoring 18 in the first game.

The Robins forward remains a focal point along with Sherwin Concepcion, David Velvez, Laurenz Victoria, and Dennel Aguirre, while the Red Cubs count on Andrei Caracut, Marc Diputado, Niko Abatayo, and Kenneth Alas.

Expect them all to bring their A-game in the last day of the 90th basketball tournament. 

Follow the writer on Twitter: @KarloSacamos