The Lyceum Pirates are back in the NCAA finals.
Displaying their non-stop attacking offense and in-your-face defense, the Pirates unleashed a 109-85 demolition job over the Letran Knights Friday at the FilOil Flying V Centre.
With the win, the Pirates are in the finals for the second straight year.
"They are a well-coached team," Lyceum coach Topex Robinson said, crediting their opponent. "We had to make sure to have them out of their comfort zone. And we did it by bringing CJ (Perez) off the bench. What's important for us is we have to dictate the tempo."
Just as Robinson mentioned, the tempo was the key. The Pirates came out aggressive and on a mission as they led 18-6 in the opening minutes. They flashed their signature high-octane pace and ran every time they had the ball. The Knights, who used strong inside play and rely on methodical halfcourt sets, played out of character and tried to keep up with the pace.
The Knights eventually settled down by the second quarter, pouring in 31 points in that frame. They came in at halftime staring at a mere four-point deficit.
But things took an awful turn for Letran at the start of the third period. Leader and starting point guard JP Calvo got tangled in a loose ball situation and his left ankle got hurt. Even as the Knights momentarily took the lead courtesy of a triple by Koy Galvelo six minutes into the period, it was all for naught. The Pirates countered with a game-changing 15-0 blast.
The absence of Calvo on the floor was significantly felt by both squads. The Pirates added more pressure on the backcourt while the Knights struggled to even cross the halfcourt line.
A barrage of turnovers and errant shots buried the Knights into a huge deficit. They were down by as many as 37 points and never had a chance to recover.
Letran's Bong Quinto ended his collegiate career with 12 points, six rebounds, and seven assists. Calvo meanwhile did all he could with nine points in just 19 minutes of play.
Mike Nzeusseu top-scored for Lyceum with 23 points to go along with 17 rebounds. CJ Perez, who came off the bench, tallied 19 points, five rebounds, and four steals. The Pirates forced the Knights into 22 turnovers, changing the complexion of the game.
"It's really a blessing to be in the finals," Robinson said. "We are not saying that this is vengeance. It's a stage for us to inspire people."
LPU 109 - Nzeusseu 23, Perez 19, Marcelino JC 15, Pretta 15, Ayaay 11, Santos 9, Caduyac 8, Tansingco 3, Ibanez 2, Serrano 2, Yong 2, Cinco 0, Lumbao 0, Marcelino JV 0, Valdez 0
CSJL 85 - Muyang 21, Quinto 12, Fajarito 11, Taladua 10, Ambohot 9, Calvo 9, Batiller 6, Celis 4, Galvelo 3, Agbong 0, Mandreza 0, Yu 0, Pambid 0
Quarters: 29-16, 51-47, 81-64, 109-85