MANILA, Philippines – When the semi-finals of the Seaoil-Metro Manila Basketball League gets going in a week, not one of the four San Beda teams competing across four divisions will be suiting up on their home court – a first in the competition’s history.
In the 31 years of the Seaoil-MMBL, the country’s third oldest high school basketball competition, the San Beda Red Cubs have dominated the tournament.
In all previous 30 editions of the tournament dating back to 1983, when Benjie Paras powered the Red Cubs to the title, San Beda has always made the semi-finals cast.
That streak ended this year for San Beda.
The Red Cubs who recently won their fifth consecutive NCAA juniors title and 21st overall were eliminated last weekend by National University (NU), 81-70, dropping them to 2-3. They were put on the brink of elimination with a crushing 71-75 loss to Chiang Kai Shek in the previous week.
The loss means they will not be able to defend the Seaoil-National Basketball Training Center championship that they won last year over Hope Christian High school.
The champion of the Seaoil-MMBL goes to the finals of the Seaoil-NBTC, which is a championship for the top high school program all over the Philippines.
Former San Beda juniors head coach and Seaoil-MMBL Commissioner Ato Badolato said their failure to make the Final Four was a testament to other schools’ rapid improvement.
“You cannot stay on top forever,” Badolato said. “Teams are coached much better. Recruitment is much better. It’s also good for the league that other schools are stepping up.”
The loss to NU also means that it will be the last game of blue chip player Arvin Tolentino in a Red Cubs jersey as he moves to Ateneo de Manila University for college.