The LPU Pirates are for real.
Dubbed as title contenders prior to the start of the season, the Pirates upset the defending champions San Beda Red Lions, 96-91, in the first round of NCAA Season 93 on Friday at the FilOil Flying V Centre.
CJ Perez had a game-high 24 points while reinforcement Mike Nzeusseu had a double-double of 18 points and 13 rebounds.
“We’re blessed to be here right now,” LPU’s Topex Robinson said after the game. “To play against a San Beda team it’s really gonna take a lot of grit, perseverance, and just never giving up. But again, it’s not about me, it’s about these players. I’m just blessed to have these players around, that are driven, they’re purpose is to really inspire others – that’s been our battle cry.”
The game was knotted at 89 apiece with less than three minutes to play before Perez and Reymar Caduyac scored six straight points to create separation from the Red Lions. The defending champions struggled on offense late in the fourth period as they went 0-for-7 from the field in the final 2:47 of the game.
Throughout the contest, the Pirates showcased their brand of basketball of hard-pressed defense and selfless offense. They forced 18 turnovers from San Beda while shooting 45 percent from the field. The Red Lions tried to match the Pirates’ stingy defense by going outside, knocking down 13 shots from deep. Unfortunately, the champs crumbled in the endgame.
“Mentally, yung depensa talaga namin fino-focus talaga namin,” Perez commented. “Yung depensa kasi namin tumutulong sa opensa namin.”
“Nobody wins a championship sa second game,” Robinson cautioned. “We know that teams will start playing us harder. We just have to always be ready, prepared, and always be humble and hungry.”
The Pirates notched their second straight win after beating the JRU Heavy Bombers last Tuesday. They will try to remain unbeaten when they take on the San Sebastian Stags next Friday.
Meanwhile, the EAC Generals made their season debut against the CSB Blazers, winning 74-64. Hamadou Laminou came back from his knee injury this past summer to pace the Generals with 21 points and 13 rebounds.
“Actually I just came back from my injury last Monday. I didn’t practice for almost two months,” shared Laminou, who missed out half of the FilOil Flying V Preseason tournament due to his injury. “I’m trying my best to be in condition. Right now I’m not really totally 100 percent, but I’m trying my best.”
The Blazers fell behind as much as 24 points in a lopsided affair. No CSB player even reached double figures as they only shot 25 percent from the field.
For EAC’s head coach Ariel Sison, he’s optimistic about the Generals’ chances this year.
“We are really positive this season na mas maganda yung ma-achieve ng team,” he said.
The Generals will undergo a huge test in their second game as they face the Letran Knights next.
In the first game, the JRU Heavy Bombers got their first win of the season at the expense of the Perpetual Help Altas, 68-54. Teytey Teodoro poured in 26 points, seven rebounds, and three assists. The combo guard was instrumental for the Heavy Bombers in the fourth period where he scored eight points, including two triples.
The Bombers lost their opening day match against the LPU Pirates and head coach Vergel Meneses was visibly pleased with how his team bounced back.
“It’s a good sign. Kumbaga bumalik yung team namin,” Meneses said frankly. “Nung last time we played against LPU wala talagang puso, wala yung pride doon. Di ko talaga nakita yung JRU. But let’s give credit dun sa LPU.”
“Siguro nag double effort lang ako kasi kaming mga beterano na-disappoint kami nung first game eh,” Teodoro said about his game.
Before Friday’s game, however, Perpetual Help filed a protest against the league’s decision to overturn their 69-65 win last July 11 against the CSB Blazers. In the Altas camp, they put into question why they were penalized twice for their uniform infraction – first by receiving a technical at the start of the game and second forfeiting the match altogether.