MANILA, Philippines – The Lyceum Pirates held on in the final stretch to slip past the San Sebastian Stags, 85-80, in the NCAA Season 94 men's basketball tournament at the Mall of Asia Arena, Saturday, July 7.
Last season's MVP CJ Perez, Spencer Pretta and MJ Ayaay knocked in the key baskets in the closing minutes to help the Pirates avoid an opening-day upset against the rallying Stags.
Cameroonian big man Mike Nzeusseu dropped a huge double-double of 23 points and 20 rebounds to pace the Pirates, while Perez again proved he's a top PBA draft prospect with an all-around gem of 15 points, 3 boards, 4 assists, 5 steals and a block.
After the Stags' Ian Valdez tied the game with a triple, 77-all, at the 3-minute mark, Perez broke the deadlock and Pretta also knocked in a patented long bomb to lift the Pirates, 82-77.
Allyn Bulanadi got fouled beyond the arc and put the Stags within 4 points, 83-79, after nailing two of his 3 charities with 41 seconds left.
But MJ Ayaay later responded with a short-range dagger, 85-80, to give the Pirates some breathing room with 28 ticks remaining.
Lyceum couldn't quite put the Stags away and Bulanadi even singlehandedly erased the Pirates’ 7-point lead with 3 straight easy layups, 69-68, thanks to an incredible, dive-first defense by his teammates.
RK Ilagan, too, caught fire midway through the second quarter as he gave the Stags their first lead of the night, 33-32, off the three-ball. He then extended the advantage to 5, 38-33, as he continued to wax hot.
However, Perez arrested the Stags' run by firing 4 straight including a beautiful finger roll to inch within one, 37-38. Nzeusseu did his share of answering the red-hot Ilagan and tied the game up at the half, 43-all.
It was a far cry from the Stags' first quarter where they trailed 2-11 at the start the contest and 14-22 after the first period.
Ilagan paced the Stags with 18 points and Bulanadi added15. Mike Calisaan also chipped in a 12-point, 12-board double-double.
Lyceum (85) – Nzeusseu 23, Perez 15, Marcelino JC 13, Serrano 6, Pretta 6, Yong 6, Marcelino JV 5, Ayaay 4, Caduyac 4, Ibanez 2, Santos 1, Cinco 0, Tansingco 0, Valdez 0.
San Sebastian (80) – Ilagan 18, Bulanadi 15, Calisaan 12, Calma 10, Valdez 7, Sumoda 6, Dela Cruz 5, Desoyo 4, Villapando 3, Capobres 0, Are 0, Baytan 0.
Quarter scores: 22-14, 43-43, 67-60, 85-80.