A changing of the guards could be looming in NCAA high school basketball.
Making the decisive plays in the dying seconds, Arellano slew seven-peat champion San Beda, 93-90, on Monday, to snatch the solo lead in the NCAA Season 92 Juniors Basketball Division at the FilOil Flying V Arena, San Juan.
Guillmer dela Torre and Lars Sunga took turns in offense in the stretch while Aaron Fermin did the rest on defense as the Braves snared their eighth straight win to jump to the top and leave the Cubs at No. 2 with a 7-1 (win-loss) record.
“I just told my player not to get intimidated and the players did just that”, said Arellano U coach Tylon Darjuan.
Dela Torre wound up with a game-best 28 points, 22 of which came in the second half when he decided to take charge, while Sunga ended up with 16 points, half in the final period that kept Arellano in the game.
While dela Torre and Sunga did the scoring, the 6-5 Fermin did the dirty job with 11 points, 13 rebounds and a season-high seven blocks, including one against San Beda’s Sam Abu Hijle with 5.4 seconds to go and the Braves up by just two points.
Darjuan said he had to travel to a far-flung place in Nueva Ecija on a recommendation by the late Gilber Bulawan, who played for Blackwater in the PBA before his recent passing, just to get Fermin.
“It took me six hours from Manila just to get to him”, said Darjuan of Fermin, who hails from Licab, a fourth-class Nueva Ecija municipality.
The game could serve as a sneak preview to this year’s finals as the two fought to 21 leadchanges and 11 deadlocks.
In the end, it was Arellano U though which persevered and outplayed San Beda.
Down 80-83, Sunga and dela Torre conspired to turn it into an 88-87 lead with 1.36 minutes remaining.
After Addie Velasquez drained a triple to give the upperhand back to the Cubs, 90-88, dela Torre drove past Evan Nelle to score and drew a foul that he completed for a crucial three-point play, giving the Braves the lead for good.
With San Beda down, 90-92, on a split by Sunga with 14.2 ticks remaining, Abu Hijle tried to ram his way to the basket with hopes of knotting the count and hopefully force overtime but Fermin met him headstrong and blocked his shot.
Carlo Abadeza collared the rebound and was quickly fouled by Abu Hijle.
Abadeza sank the first foul shot but missed the second, allowing San Beda one last chance to stay alive.
Velasquez, who made a three-pointer a few plays before, threw a desperation three that came short as the endgame buzzer sounded.
The Cubs fell to 7-1.
Arellano Braves (93) – dela Torre 28, Sunga 16, Abadeza 11, Fermin 11, Anacito 8, Espiritu 7, Dimaunahan 5, Danas 3, Rivera 3, Batiler 1, de Leon 0, Fornis 0, Tamayo 0
San Beda Red Cubs (90) – Abu Hijle 15, Mahinay 15, Etrata 11, Obenza 11, Tagala 10, Alfaro 9, Velasquez 8, Lagumen 5, Nayve 5, Nelle 1, dela Rosa 0, Garcia 0
Quarterscores: 19-all; 39-all; 64-67; 93-90