With Cameroonian import Mike Nzeusseu and rookie Adrian Alban taking charge in the stretch, Lyceum pulled the rug from under Jose Rizal U on Friday night 69-66 and barged into the winners’ column of the 92nd NCAA seniors basketball tourney at The Arena in San Juan City.
Reeling from three straight losses, the Pirates struggled early on and fell behind by as many as 13 points before the 6-foot-5 Nzeusseu and Alban made big plays in the decisive canto that enabled them to compound the woes of the Heavy Bombers.
Nzeussue, giving up at least three inches against his JRU counterparts, frolicked in the lane with 24 points and 21 rebounds while Alban fired a career-high of 19 markers, including six of Lyceum’s last 11 points highlighted by a clutch 18-footer for a 66-60 lead.
“If we’re gonna play together, despite all the adversities that are coming in our way, we’re gonna go places,” beamed Lyceum coach Topex Robinson, clearly satisfied with the Pirates’ collective performance despite the continued absence of top big man Joseph Gabayni and wingman Jebb Bulawan.
Although they caught a big fish in the mold of the Heavy Bombers, a perennial Final Four contender, Robinson was quick enough to temper the Pirates’ celebration.
“We’re still 1-3. It’s not something…we don’t want to put our guards down. Nothing to celebrate (yet),” he said. “A win is a win. But we’re 1-3 right now. (We) still have 14 games left. We have to go back to work.”
Ervin Grospe finished with a team-high 16 points while three other teammates, including top gunner Teytey Teodoro, added at least 10 markers but they still could not prevent the Heavy Bombers from absorbing their third setback in four starts.
Even if JRU was coming off a 30-point beating of St. Benilde last Tuesday, Robinson added his wards were hardly unfazed. “We’re not worried about JRU. We’re more worried about ourselves. We don’t have control of what JRU will do. But we have control of how we’re gonna play,” he said.
“Credit goes to these players. They did a great job. It’s a team effort,” Robinson concluded. – By Jerome Lagunzad
Lyceum (69) – Nzeusseu 24, Alban 19, Marata 8, Alanes 4, Ayaay 4, Malabanan 4, Serafico 4, Caduyac 2, Baltazar 0, Soliman 0, Magbuhos 0.
JRU (66) – Grospe 16, Teodoro 14, Poutouochi 10, Lasquety 10, Dela Paz 6, Abdulrazak 5, Pontejos 3, Salaveria 2, Astilla 0, Dela Virgen 0, Evardo 0.
Quarterscores: 9-16, 27-29, 45-47, 69-66.