SAN JUAN CITY - Letran Squires commenced their title defense with a decisive 102-64 victory against Jose Rizal University (JRU) in the opening game of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Season 99 juniors basketball tournament at the Filoil EcoOil Centre on Saturday. Despite the loss of two pivotal players from the previous season, Letran showcased a dominant performance that set the tone for their championship bid.
According to Philippines News Agency, Daniel Padilla led the charge for the Squires with 16 points, shooting an impressive 7-of-9 from the field, alongside four rebounds and three assists. Syrex Silorio added 14 points to the team's tally. Letran's win comes despite the departure of Andy Gemao, last season's Finals Most Valuable Player who has moved to the United States, and former team captain Emman Anabo, now with Adamson University.
In other matches of the day, Mapua secured an 82-78 win over Arellano, while Perpetual Help overcame Lyceum with a score of 89-75. Lawrence Mangubat from Cebu stood out for the Mapua Red Robins with 20 points, expressing gratitude for the confidence placed in him by coach Yong Garcia. Aki Valina contributed 13 points to Mapua's victory, which was solidified by a commanding lead at halftime.
Perpetual Junior Altas' Lebron Jhames Daep, the 6-foot-7 son of former NCAA champion Rommel Daep, delivered a notable performance with 22 points, five rebounds, four assists, four steals, and a block. The young athlete acknowledged his father's support as a significant factor in his performance. Perpetual's captain Amiel Acido added 14 points, helping the team to extend their halftime lead into a comfortable victory by the end of the third quarter.
Perpetual coach Joph Cleopas emphasized the importance of consistency in practice to achieve success in games, stating, "Win every practice, win every game. The real battle is in practice." Upcoming matches include a face-off between Lyceum and San Sebastian, with other teams scheduled to play on February 16, highlighting the competitive spirit and talent across the NCAA juniors basketball landscape.