The polarizing tandem of twins Jaycee and Jayvee Marcelino proved to the difference for the Lyceum Pirates as they came away with a thrilling 84-80 win over the Letran Knights to begin the 95th season of the NCAA, Sunday at the Mall of Asia Arena.
The dynamic duo scored eight points apiece in the final period, including 13 of Lyceum's last 15 points to pull away. Jaycee top-scored with 24 points and filled the stat sheet with six rebounds, five assists, and three steals. Brother Jayvee was the perfect complement with 18 points and six rebounds.
"I told them before the game, we have two choices. Either we lose by just being the smallest team or we win by being the smallest," head coach Topex Robinson said in Filipino. "The choice is ours. We might be the smallest, but what we have is the quickest team in the league right now. We're focusing on all our energy to being the smallest and the quickest team in the league, hoping that teams won't catch up with our quickness."
The Pirates played small ball for most of the game with center and reinforcer Mike Nzeusseu still sidelined due to a jammed right index finger. Instead of matching Letran's size and length, they countered by going to their strength. At times, Lyceum fielded four guards and a forward. Nonetheless, the Pirates' ran the Knights off the floor with their quickness led by the Marcelino twins.
"That's really a sight to behold," Robinson said on the Marcelino brothers. "How I wish they have five more years for us at LPU. The energy that they bring to the team is really something super, super magical to us."
Jaycee converted on a tough floater to break the deadlock and give the Pirates an 80-77 lead with 1:22 remaining. His drive also drew Letran big man Larry Muyang's fifth foul. Jaycee scored again on Lyceum's next possession but Bonbon Batiller answered with a booming trey. Down by two with 40 seconds left, Letran had the chance to tie the game but turned the ball over, allowing Jayvee to seal the game with the layup on the other end.
Without CJ Perez and MJ Ayaay, Lyceum got off to a rousing start and hope to build on it for the succeeding games.
"Coming to the game, we discussed how we were gonna look at the season," said Robinson. "It's not about the result of the game but how we're playing. Our ballgame is not based on what the result was but how we played. Our team is about honoring CJ and MJ but also building on it. We're grateful for what they did but what's important is what's in front of us."
The Pirates face the EAC Generals on Friday at the Filoil Flying V Centre.
The NCAA held its opening ceremonies in style as hosts Arellano feted dance groups from its various campuses. The festivities were highlighted by OPM artist Bamboo.
LPU 84 - Marcelino JC 24, Marcelino JV 18, Caduyac 16, Santos 8, David 6, Yong 3, Navarro 3, Ibanez 2, Valdez 2, Tansingco 2, Pretta 0
LETRAN 80 - Balanza 19, Muyang 14, Ular 12, Ambohot 10, Olivario 8, Caralipio 5, Batiller 4, Reyson 3, Mina 3, Yu 2, Balagasay 0
QUARTERS:17-21, 47-39, 64-62, 84-80