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By Jerome Lagunzad

Games Monday
(The Arena, San Juan City)
12 noon. — EAC vs JRU (Jrs)
2 p.m. — EAC vs JRU (Srs)
4 p.m. — Arellano vs Letran (Srs)
6 p.m. — Arellano vs Letran (Jrs)

Pirates survive Chiefs for 12th straight victory.

Down by double figures several times against an upset-conscious Arellano University in the final period yesterday, Lyceum coach Topex Robinson’s trust and confidence on his wards never wavered – even an inch.

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And the Pirates rewarded him with a great escape act courtesy of a thrilling come-from-behind 94-92 victory over the stunned Chiefs to stretch their unbeaten run to 12 matches in the 93rd NCAA seniors basketball tourney at The Arena in San Juan City.

Shifty forward Jesper Ayaay saved his best for last as he banged in 13 of his team-high 20 points in the stretch where he teamed up mainly with rookie Jaycee Marcelino and fellow veteran Reymar Caduyac in the Pirates’ ferocious fightback from a 13-point deficit in the last four minutes.

“We just kept on playing and grind it out,” said Robinson, heaving a big sigh of relief after the Pirates rediscovered their deadly form of old in time to overhaul what seemed to be an insurmountable 74-87 deficit following Chiefs guard Kent Salado’s triple with 4:17 left to play.

Robinson certainly had to give an ample of credit to the likes of Ayaay, Marcelino, Cameroon import Mike Nzeusseu and top gun CJ Perez, hobbled by foul woes, after they took turns in their blinding 14-to-nothing run that gave Lyceum a one-point lead over Arellano with two minutes remaining.

Unheralded Rence Alcoriza momentarily stopped the bleeding for the Chiefs as he scored four straight points, including a lay-up off a nifty pass by Salado that gave them the upperhand anew at 91-88.

But Ayaay, with Perez already out with five fouls, took up the cudgels for the Pirates and tallied five consecutive points, capped by a go-ahead putback after being initially blocked by Chiefs center Lervin Flores, time down to just 7.4 seconds.

Marcelino, however, nearly turned into goat as he gave up a poor foul on Salado during an inbound play. Good thing for the Pirates freshman, the Chiefs guard split his charities and then returned the favor to Marcelino who also made just one free throw, virtually pegging the final count going to the last 4.6 seconds.

With no timeouts left, the Chiefs immediately rushed the leather and Kraniel Villoria uncorked a last-gasp heave from the half court line that missed the target badly, leading to the Pirates’ big celebration.

Salado led all scorers with 24 points while Flores finished with 15 points, 11 rebounds and six blocks that all went down the drain as Arellano dropped to 10th overall with a 4-7 mark.

First Game
Lyceum 94 – Ayaay 20, Nzeusseu 17, Caduyac 15, Perez 14, Marcelino JC 13, Baltazar 7, Santos 4, Marcelino JV 2, Ibanez 2, Tansingco 0, Pretta 0, Liwag 0, Serrano 0, Marata 0.

Arellano 92 – Salado 24, Flores 15, Abanes 12, Nicholls 11, Enriquez 8, Alcoriza 7, Dela Cruz 6, Villoria 4, Taywan 3, Concepcion 2, Canete 0, Meca 0, Filart 0.

Quarters: 26-23, 44-47, 57-70, 94-92.