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Pirates to Lions: Don’t blink

By Jerome Lagunzad

Game Thursday (Smart Araneta Coliseum)
3:30 p.m. – San Beda vs Lyceum
(Game 2, Red Lions lead series 1-0)

San Beda’s heady playmaker Robert Bolick has already taken a hold – at least with one hand – of the coveted 93rd NCAA seniors basketball title. But his Lyceum counterpart, newly-minted MVP CJ Perez, vowed to snatch the title at all costs.

CJ Perez is out to win NCAA title for Lyceum. (MB photo | Rio Deluvio)

CJ Perez is out to win NCAA title for Lyceum. (MB photo | Rio Deluvio)

“Sabi ko ‘Huwag silang bibitaw kasi kukunin namin sa kanila,’” said the Pirates star, delivering a strong message to Bolick and the defending champion Red Lions ahead of their Game 2 encounter on Thursday at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.

The 6-foot-1 Perez won their personal duel with 25 points, eight rebounds and two assists but the smaller Bolick stood taller down the stretch where he tallied nine of his 24 points in spectacular fashion, enabling San Beda to stop Lyceum’s 18-game run and inch closer towards a 21st league title.

“Magaling talaga siya. He’s an MVP for a reason,” said Bolick of Perez. “As I’ve said, you can’t stop him. You just force him to (take) tough shots, force him to miss. But he’s gonna make shots. (The) guy is good so give it to him. Nobody deserves it better than him.”

But his strong admiration over Perez’s impressive skillset perhaps stokes the fire in Bolick’s belly.

“We look forward to Game 2 and he’s gonna come back strong,” said the proud Ormoc City native. “Sabi niya sa akin, ‘He’s gonna win Game 2.’ That’s the beauty of basketball, the competition. At the end of the day, we’re still friends, but inside the court, we want to win.”

Even San Beda coach Boyet Fernandez believes Bolick is playing with a chip on his shoulder especially after seeing his bid for the highest individual award go down the drain following a surprising ejection in the elimination round.

“Sabi nga nila, in these big games, like sa championship, you can separate the men from the boys. So if Robert stepped up, then he’s really a man. He’s really a man. He really played well in the fourth quarter,” he said.

Perez, however, knows he needs to come up with nothing less than his A-game if he wants to salvage the Pirates’ ambitious title hopes and drag the Red Lions into a sudden-death showdown next Tuesday.

“Nasa utak ko lang, kailangan namin bumawi,” said the pride of Bautista, Pangasinan. “Lalaruin pa rin namin ‘yung makakaya namin sa next game. Kailangan lang namin dagdagan ‘yung efforts namin.”