After the 97th season of the NCAA Seniors Basketball Tournament, many fans around the NCAA believed that it was only a matter of time before Mapua University took the league by storm.
The Cardinals were coming off a finals appearance where they put up a valiant effort against a stacked Colegio de San Juan de Letran squad, losing both games in the finals as Letran secured their back-to-back championships.
However, as Season 98 rolled around, the Cardinals were far from the contenders they were expected to be. The squad from Intramuros became complacent, losing their first seven games of the season and finishing the first round with a 1-8 record. Their slow start would ultimately cost them, as they missed the Final Four completely.
In the league’s 99th season, Coach Randy Alcantara and his squad refused to make the same mistake.
Mapua took care of business in their first two games of the season, defeating San Sebastian College-Recoletos 80-70 to start the season, and following it up with a 75-57 thrashing of San Beda University.
Leading the way for Coach Alcantara’s group are three players who are very familiar with his system: Paolo Hernandez, Warren Bonifacio, and Clint Escamis. They have all suited up for Mapua since their Red Robin days and believe they can keep the squad together for another Finals run.
“Pinull aside kami before our first game ni Coach Randy, kami talaga dapat maging leader on and off the court. Ayun, positive ‘yun. Naghawa-hawa eh sa second group, sa third group,” said Escamis, who just returned to Mapua after a stint with the University of the East.
“Seryoso ‘yung grupo ngayon eh, pati ‘yung mga rookies namin, nakita naman natin na talagang nag-deliver. Sabi ko nga magiistart sa kanila, Boni, Clint, and Paolo. ‘Yan ay dahil sa maayos na tinatakbo ngayon dahil sa kanilang leadership,” said Alcantara.
The trio of former Red Robins aims to keep their team focused as they approach their next game against Jose Rizal University on Sunday, October 1, 2023, at the Filoil Ecooil Centre.