Fil-Jordanian gives Red Cubs added bite
SEASON 91 of the National Collegiate Athletic Association could be a great year for Fil-Jordanian Sam Abuhijle, who has emerged as one of the more important players of the dominant San Beda Red Cubs.
With Abuhijle submitting team high numbers in points and rebounds, the reigning six-peat champion San Beda clinched the first finals berth with an 18-game elimination round sweep and awaits the challenger to their NCAA throne.
This is Abuhijle’s first year playing for the Red Cubs after he spent time in Team B in the previous years. He showed how ready he was to play in the NCAA last summer when San Beda-Taytay made it to the semifinals of the Palarong Pambansa secondary boys basketball action while representing the Calabarzon region.
Abuhijle has come a long way from where he started six years ago. He joined organized sports as a 10-year-old playing football while in school at 7 Pillars Catholic School in Sta. Rosa Laguna.
Friends took notice of his height and introduced him to the game of basketball. He started playing pick-up games and immediately got hooked.
“Mga barkada ko sa school ang nagyaya, Laru-laro lang. Larong kalye. Doon nagsimula,” he said.
He joined the tryouts, became part of the grade school team and found himself playing for the elementary boys team of Calabarzon in the Palarong Pambansa.
In high school, he was accepted to the San Beda-Taytay’s varsity team. He suited up for Team B in his first two years.
When the Red Cubs defeated the Arellano Braves, 80-76, last Oct. 1, Abuhijle celebrated his 17th birthday with a bang.
He played his best game in this season, drilling 23 points and grabbing 13 rebounds.
Last Oct. 5, Abuhijle led the Red Cubs to the NCAA finals where they have a chance to seek their seventh consecutive crown in the junior division again.
He laid low in that game, gave way to another big man Germy Mahinay.
Abuhijle had only four points and four rebounds as the Red Cubs completed an 18-game sweep of their elimination assignment at the expense of the Letran Squires, 76-67, at the Arena in San Juan.
Abuhijle though remains one of the team’s top candidates for the Mythical Five as well as Most Valuable Player.
For 18 games, Abuhijle averaged 11.94 points and 9.28 rebounds.
“Sam has been steady the whole season,” said Red Cubs coach JB Sison.
Abuhijle played his best game this season against the Arellano University Braves. But the hero of that game was Eduardo “Addie” Velasquez who was in foul trouble going into the fourth quarter of their game against the Braves last Oct. 1 won by San Beda, 80-76.
Abuhijle dominated the scoring and rebounding battle but it was Velasquez who scored the pivotal basket. Abuhijle grabbed the rebound and fed Velasquez the basketball for the important shot.
Arellano’s Lars Sunga missed his attempt and Abuhuijle collected the rebound and rifled a long pass to teammate Velasquez who popped a quick three from the top of the key in the last 30.4 seconds.
Velasquez scored only five points during the 19 minutes he played and had only three rebounds. But his basket broke a 76-all deadlock and sent the Red Cubs on their way for their 17th consecutive victory.
The Braves had a chance to tie the game but Sunga committed a travelling error while getting hounded by Velasquez in the ensuing play.
Sunga then committed an unsportsmanlike foul as he tried to stop John Lagumen, who split his charity before time expired.
Meanwhile, Arellano University leaned on Guillmer dela Torre’s free throws and its key defensive stops in the stretch as it downed La Salle-Greenhills, 75-74, to stay in the title hunt.
Dela Torre drained two free throws with 41.7 seconds to go and then the Braves shut down the Junior Blazers the rest of the way to arrange another knockout showdown, this time against the second-seeded Mapua Red Robins on Tuesday for the right to play the San Beda Cubs in the finals.