Lions, pirates in big starts

Rhanzelle Yong
LYCEUM of the Philippines’ Rhanzelle Yong (13) makes an undergoal shot against Letran defenders during first half action at the start of the NCAA Season 94 at SM Mall of Asia Arena. Dennis Abrina

SAN BEDA, last year’s top defensive team, has lived up to its reputation.

The Red Lions put the clamps on Arellano University, 59-46, to open their four-peat bid in style last night in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament at the Mall of Asia Arena.

Lyceum of the Philippines University, losing finalist to San Beda in the last two seasons, opened its campaign with an 84-80 decision of Letran.

Cameroon’s Donald Tankoua had a double-double of 13 points and 10 rebounds to go with three assists and two steals while James Canlas chipped in 10 points and seven boards for the Lions, who extended their opening-day winning streak to 14 dating back from 2006.

Comebacking Chiefs guard Kent Salado finished with 16 points, but was limited to three in the second half.

“It’s really tough to play in the opening game but we were happy that we won this one,” said San Beda mentot Boyet Fernandez, who faced his long-time assistant and now Arellano coach Cholo Martin for the first time.

“Totoo na ang mantra namin is defense first before offense. Defense wins us championships and hopefully we continue to play defense every game and hopefully we achieve our goal of defending the crown.”

The Pirates turned to twins Jaycee and Jayvee Marcelino in the final four minutes to frustrate the Knights, who squandered a 76-71 lead after battling back from a 10-point first half deficit.

“It’s not about the result of the game but on how we are playing. Our game is not based on what the score was, but on how we play. We focus on those things, kasi yun lang ang may control kami. On how we prepare, and I guess lady luck still fell on our lap and we got the win. Letran is a super tough team that we beat,” said LPU coach Topex Robinson.

Jaycee Marcelino led the Pirates with 24 points, six rebounds, five assists and three steals, while Jayvee Marcelino chipped in 18 points, six boards and two assists.

LPU is already moving on without its aces CJ Perez and Jesper Ayaay, who were instrumental in bringing the Pirates as one of the elite teams in the league.

“Our team is honoring CJ and Ayaay. By honoring that, we are also building our legacy with our the guys we have right now. We so grateful for what CJ and Ayaay brought to us,” said Robinson, who is now the longest-tenured coach in the league.

”But what’s in important right now is what in front of us. Again, we have the opportunity to keep on inspiring others. The way we are playing. Trying to connect the people that shares the same beliefs as we do. We just put it in basketball but it’s just that what the team is all about,” he added.

The Pirates prevailed without Cameroonian center Mike Nzeusseu, who fractured right index finger during the off-season and his status is on a day-to-day basis.

Despite the height disadvantage, the  determination of LPU is there by compensating what it has right now in other aspects of the game.

“Pagpasok sa parade, sabi ni Jayvee (Marcelino), kami ang pinakamaliit. Sabi ko kanila, we have two choices, it’s either that we lose being the smallest team or either we win being the smallest team. The choice is ours. We might be the smallest, but we are focusing on every energy of being the smallest but quickest team in the league. That’s the choice that we took and it gave us the win,” said Robinson.

Jerrick Balanza had 19 points, five rebounds, four steals and four assists while Larry Muyang chipped in 14 points, six boards and three assists for the Knights, who unveiled their white jerseys for the first time since 2012.

The scores:

First Game

LPU (84) - Marcelino JC. 24, Marcelino JV. 18, Caduyac 16, Santos 8, David 6, Yong 3, Navarro 3, Ibañez 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

Quarterscores: 17-21, 47-39, 64-62, 84-80

Second Game

San Beda (59) — Tankoua 13, Canlas 10, Nelle 9, Bahio 6, Doliguez 6, Oftana 6, Cariño 3, Abuda 2, Alfaro 2, Soberano 2, Etrata 0, Noah 0, Cuntapay 0, Obenza 0, Visser 0.

Arellano (46) — Salado 18, Sablan 7, Arana 4, Bayla 4, Espiritu 4, Talampas 4, Gayosa 3, Sunga 2, Alcoriza 0, Concepcion 0, Oliva 0, Santos 0, Segura 0, Sacramento 0.

Quarterscores: 15-7, 24-23, 43-35, 59-46