A series expected to go down to the thread until one of the main character's best players was frozen by a suspension can turn out to be a quick crown for San Beda.
Inadvertently, even after a strong start, defending champion Red Lions pointed to the absence of CJ Perez to overwhelm Lyceum Pirates, 73-60, on Tuesday and continue to crush the NCAA Season 94 seniors crown at the Mall of Asia Arena.
Grading stars Javee Mocon and Robert Bolick reflected Lions charge, but the absence of Perez due to the suspension was clearly known by Pirates, who looked out of sync in the first two quarters.
Perez, last season's most valuable player, was suspended in Game 1 in order not to apply for the league's permit in writing when he applied for the PBA draft last week. The decision was handed over by the league by Tuesday and left the Pirates in bond.
"Even without CJ, we beat them only with 13 points," says San Beda coach Boyet Fernandez. "But I credit the players to show up today."
The Lions held Pirates to only 22 points on 35 percent shot in the first half before expanding their lead to 27 points in the second half.
The pirates trimmed the gap to only 10 in the dying seconds, with the result already settled.
"We are sorry for CJ and Lyceum, but they will certainly come back stronger," says Fernandez.
"Lyceum, with or without CJ, can still beat our team and we have only achieved winning match 1. This is just a buffer for us to enter Game 2. I have so much respect for Lyceum therefore, I hope there is a wake-up call for teams we can not really relax. "
Mike Nzeusseu finished 16 points and grew 14 rebounds, while Jaycee and Jayvee Marcelino twins were cut in 13 points each for Pirates, who also lost to San Beda in the final last year.
But Pirate's coach Topex Robinson remained credible in the defeat and pointed to their second half as an encouraging sign as they await Perez's return on Monday's Game 2.
"There is still a lot of fighting left in us," said Robinson. "We are happy to have CJ back in Game 2."
Bolick also issued nine of San Bedas 19 assists as the lions had 11 players on the scoreboard. The Mercurial Guard promised they would be ready for Pirates fightback.
"We love to compete," Bolick said. "So they just have to take it on. We will not be back until we win that championship."
Betting to be awarded as MVP by Juniors Division on Monday, Joel Cagulangan drove La Salle Green Hills to a 74-69 triumph over Mapua in Game 1 in their best of three finals.
Meanwhile, the Nigerian center Prince Eze of Perpetual emerged as the league's murdered MVP.
It will mark the first time in four years as a player from Perpetual Help won the MVP after Scottie Thompson took off the priest in 2014.
To join Eze in the mythical five are Donald Tankoua from San Beda, Bolick, Mocon and Bong Quinto in Letran.
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