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NCAA: Pirates back in Finals

By Kristel Satumbaga

Lyceum's CJ Perez tries to score against Letran's Larry Muyang during the NCAA Season 94 Semifinals match at Filoil Flying V Arena in San Juan, October 26, 2018 (Rio Leonelle Deluvio)

Lyceum’s CJ Perez tries to score against Letran’s Larry Muyang during the NCAA Season 94 Semifinals match at Filoil Flying V Arena in San Juan, October 26, 2018 (Rio Leonelle Deluvio)

Lyceum banked on an explosive third quarter and completed its return trip to the NCAA men’s basketball finals with a 109-85 drubbing of Letran yesterday at The Arena in San Juan City.

Behind 56-55 with 6:04 left in the third, the Pirates bedazzled the Knights with a massive 26-8 run – thanks to the inspired showing of CJ Perez and Jesper Ayaay – to take a comfortable 81-64 lead going into the final quarter.

The Pirates never got into trouble hence after as they threw the Knights off guard with their deadly full court press that saw their Intramuros neighbor fall into a maze of errors.

It was Lyceum’s second straight championship appearance after getting an outright finals berth last year following an 18-game elims sweep.

Lyceum, sad to say, was swept by San Beda in the Finals.

Lyceum coach Topex Robinson said they treated the match like a knockout game despite enjoying a twice-to-beat semis advantage.

“We know it’s going to be close. We’re never going to save for (the next day); it’s either now or never,” said Robinson.

The Pirates, who only needed a victory with their second seeding in the Final Four, await the winner between defending champion San Beda and fourth-ranked University of Perpetual Help for the best-of-three finals affair slated on Nov. 6 at the Mall of Asia Arena.

Mike Nzeusseu paced Lyceum with 23 points and 17 rebounds, while Perez had 19 points, five boards, three assists and four steals.
Jaycee Marcelino and Spencer Pretta chipped in 15 points each even as Ayaay contributed 11 points.

The Pirates were so confident they by drained 14 triples – five coming from Pretta – and scoring 20 second-chance points.

Despite the loss, Letran surpassed last season’s finish when it lost to San Sebastian in a playoff for the fourth seeding.

The defeat, however, was a bitter pill to swallow to graduating players Bong Quinto and JP Calvo, who finished with 12 and nine points, respectively.

In juniors action, Jose Rizal University and San Beda bested their higher-ranked rivals to forge knockout semifinal matches.

The fourth-seeded Light Bombers edged defending champion and top pick La Salle Greenhills, 81-78, while No. 3 Red Cubs downed No. 2 Mapua, 84-71.

Thomas Vasquez and John Delos Santos had 17 and 16 points while Marwin Dionisio fired 11 points and hauled 17 rebounds to put to the gutter the 39-point production of La Salle’s Joel Cagulangan.

Jade Talampas, meanwhile, led San Beda with 26 points and 10 boards even as Justine Sanchez and Joshua Lazaro combined for 26 rebounds.