Undefeated Lyceum of the Philippines University faces defending champion San Beda College today in Game 1 of their best-of-three championship series in the National Collegiate Athletic Association Season 93 seniors basketball tournament at the Araneta Coliseum.
The series opener is set at 3:30 p.m. with the Pirates, who swept the 18-game elimination round to advance directly to the finals, gunning for the school’s first crown since joining the league in 2010.
Lyceum enters the series with fresher legs as the wards of head coach Topex Robinson last played last October 19 or since beating the Red Lions, 107-105, in double overtime to clinch the first finals seat.
But Robinson said their unbeaten run in the elims will mean nothing if they don’t win it all and he expects San Beda to make the necessary adjustments in the championship showdown.
“San Beda has so much experience in the finals. They are here 12 times while this is our first that’s why we have to play hard and fight for the school. We are the underdog in the series although we swept the elimination,” said Robinson.
“I had all the stats of those 18 games and torn each one of them in front of my players. I told them to forget our record because we’re playing the best team in the NCAA,” added Robinson, who will rely on Most Valuable Player candidate CJ Perez and Mike Nzeusseu.
Perez is averaging 19.3 points, 6.5 rebounds and 3.6 assists, while Nzeusseu is averaging 11.4 points and 11.8 rebounds in 18 games of the elimination.
Robinson said Game 1 is crucial especially in a short series.
“We never know when we’re going to play again in the finals, so we have to do our best. If we get Game 1, it looks like we’re holding a twice-to-beat advantage at the same time,” said Robinson.
The Red Lions clinched their 12th straight finals appearance after edging the overachieving San Sebastián College, 76-71, last Tuesday in the stepladder Final Four.
The Red Lions, who copped 10 titles in those last 12 finals stints, need to pinpoint their lapses in their two meetings in the elimination round.
“We were beaten by Lyceum fair and square in two games. We still have a job to do against them. I still trust my players and we are looking forward to Friday’s game,” said San Beda coach Boyet Fernandez.
Jayvee Mocon starred in San Beda’s crucial game against San Sebastian by pouring in 23 points and grabbing 22 rebounds plus five blocks, while Robert Bolick had 21 points and Donald Tankoua had a double-double of 13 points and 11 rebounds.
Meanwhile, College of Saint Benilde-La Salle Greenhills meets defending champion Mapua-Malayan High School at 1 p.m. in the first game of the junior’s finals.