Lyceum Pirates look to present united front without CJ Perez

CJ Perez to miss NCAA Finals Game 1 (0:41)

Lyceum star CJ Perez will sit out Game 1 of the Finals on Tuesday after failing to notify the NCAA of his application to the 2018 PBA Draft. (0:41)

The Lyceum Pirates are not thinking about redemption as they take on the San Beda Red Lions in the NCAA Season 94 finals.

The Red Lions topped the Pirates for their second straight title in Season 93.

"It's really a blessing to be in the finals again. We don't say this is vengeance or this is payback. It's not in our vocabulary," coach Topex Robinson said.

Under Robinson the Pirates have adopted a mantra: "Love. Serve. Care." "It's just setting the stage for an opportunity for us to again inspire a lot of people. It will never change for us," Robinson said. "We're not worried about the result or whoever we're going to play, but what's important is how we're really going to cherish this experience."

The Pirates have been successful with this mindset but they are far from perfect. As last year's finals result would attest, their core beliefs and principles do not necessarily translate into championships.

The suspension of reigning league MVP CJ Perez also weighs heavily on the team. Not only will they miss Perez's 18.7 points, 8.2 rebounds, 3.9 assists, and 3.3 steals, but also his veteran leadership and presence. It's impossible to replace the 6-foot-3 swingman's versatility. Lyceum has only lost three games in the elimination round the past two years and the core of that success is Perez.

"I can't control that," Robinson said of losing Perez. "I'm here to win a championship, I'm gonna focus my 100 percent tomorrow."

Without Perez, standouts MJ Ayaay, Reymar Caduyac, twins Jaycee and Jayvee Marcelino, and center Mike Nzeusseu, will have to step up.

The Pirates will want to keep up a frantic pace on both ends of the floor. They will create havoc and force turnovers on one end, and then race up the court to look for easy baskets. Without Perez, they will have to rely on their style of play.

When Lyceum entered the finals after dispatching the Letran Knights, Robinson was proud of the collective effort of his entire team.

"The guy next to them is important, the guy behind him is important. Those guys also know that everybody is always about being together, together is always going to be better for us," Robinson said.

Without Perez in Game 1, the Pirates will need to band together tighter than ever.