The San Beda Red Lions were up a single point against the Lyceum Pirates with less than two minutes left in Game 1 of the NCAA Finals last Friday.
The score read 83-82 after Mike Nzeusseu converted on his hook shot. The Red Lions were in another dogfight and the one-point advantage was too close for comfort. In the previous two meetings between the two proud schools this season, the breaks of the game all fell in the favor of the Pirates. The number one ranked team in the league have escaped defeat time and time again.
But last Friday was a different story as the King Lion Robert Bolick took matters into his own hands.
Bolick placed his team on his back, unleashing a personal 8-0 run in a blink of an eye to turn a slim one-point lead into a nine-point game with 35 seconds remaining. He dropped a three-pointer, knocked down three straight free throws, and topped things off with a hard drive to the hoop.
After his last basket, Bolick let out a primal scream as Lyceum called for a timeout. The King Lion roared loud, much to the delight of the San Beda faithful in the coliseum. And for a veteran player like him, it was all about finding the motivation and inner drive to finish off a fiery team like the Pirates.
“Ang hirap kasi ng LPU talaga, talagang ang galing nilang dumepesa. Sabi nga ni coach (Boyet Fernandez), tumalikod ka, andoon na sila kaagad. Really good team, talagang mauubos mo lahat,” shared Bolick. “So noong last, gusto ko lang sumigaw kasi pagod na pagod na talaga ako, naghahanap na ako ng motivation na sige pa, laban lang, laban lang, puso lang.”
Bolick finished with 24 big points, scoring nine of his team’s last 11 points, while adding four rebounds and two assists. In three tries this season, San Beda finally defeated Lyceum.
“Well, sabi nga nila, in these biggest games, like sa championship, you can separate the men from the boys,” exclaimed San Beda coach Boyet Fernandez. “So if Robert stepped up, then he’s really a man. He’s really a man. He really played well in the fourth quarter, he led his team.”
Bolick is in his second-year with the Red Lions after starting out his collegiate career with the De La Salle Green Archers. The 21-year-old guard has faced many worthy adversaries in the amateur ranks but he admits that he has never encountered a team like the Pirates.
“Ang galing talaga ng Lyceum. Feeling ko sila sa buong career ko sa basketball, sila yung pinaka-magaling na team na nakalaban ko,” he humbly admitted. “Minsan sa gabi, mapapaisip ka kung anong kailangan mong gawin, anong kailangan mong… matutulog ka ba ng maaga, kakain ka ba ng maayos?”
He went on to credit the seemingly unending energy of Jaycee and Jayvee Marcelino, the steady play of Reymar Caduyac, the star power of CJ Perez, and the overall talent of Lyceum.
“Kaya sumisigaw na lang ako sa last, kasi naghahanap na ako ng motivation na kaya ko pa, laban lang, isisigaw ko na lang yung pagod para sa team,” the veteran guard explained on his emotional celebration after the daredevil drive.
“Sabi ko sa sarili ko, I have to find ways to be motivated to play, and ganoon talaga ako maglaro, pag na-shoot, sumisigaw,” he went on. “So I just want to feel the crowd. Siyempre, San Beda. We lost two times to that team. Humahanap ako ng motivation. Ito na ba ‘yun, 20 seconds na lang, sumisigaw na lang ako kasi pagod na pagod na talaga, and I gave everything I had for the team.”
The entire San Beda crowd was in delirium after Bolick’s heroic shot, but as he screamed and pumped up the fans, his coach quickly reminded his star that it wasn’t over. Fernandez ran towards the sidelines where Bolick was, and bear-hugged him in the middle of the floor.
“It’s not yet finished. Remember, we’re up by nine, and we enjoyed it. Then five points straight for them,” relayed Fernandez, trying to control the emotions of his star. The clock still read 35 seconds and true enough, the willingness to win by the Pirates couldn’t easily be vanquished.
Spearheaded by Perez, the Pirates scored five points in a row. Clutch free throws eventually sealed the Game 1 victory. “Don’t celebrate until the final buzzer sounds. Until we’ve won the game, we don’t celebrate,” the coach stressed.
As Bolick was caught up in the moment, Fernandez quickly prompted his star that things were far from over – not just in those last 35 seconds, but more significantly, in their finals series against a challenging team like the Pirates.
“We will practice tomorrow (Saturday), we stay together as a team, we enjoy each other company,” Fernandez shared on their preparations, as Game 2 of the finals is still nearly a week away.
“Game 1 pa naman, they’re undefeated nga so they know how to bounce back. We’ll be ready for them, and I know galing ng depensa nila, so paano pa kaya sa Game 2. We have to double our effort,” Bolick confidently said.
If the defending champions can play the way that they played last Friday, and Bolick delivering in the crucial moments, the NCAA crown will likely stay with San Beda. In Game 2 next Thursday, the Red Lions will lean on their leader, their veteran, their King Lion, Robert Bolick, to lead them to victory.