By Michael Angelo S. Murillo
THE LYCEUM of the Philippines University Pirates began their National Collegiate Athletic Association Season 95 campaign on a winning note, defeating the Colegio de San Juan de Letran Knights, 84-80, on opening day on Sunday at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City.
Banking on their trademark hustle and energy on both ends of the court, the undermanned Pirates went on a ferocious run down the stretch to emerge on top of the Knights and get their season bid on a good start.
Lyceum got early traction behind transferee Jayson David but Letran no sooner found its collective groove to race to a 13-9 lead midway into the opening quarter.
The Knights used it as springboard to remain in control, 21-17, after the first 10 minutes.
In the second canto the Pirates went on a strong tear to start things, managing to tie the knot at 30-all, on the lead and energy of guards Jaycee and Jayvee Marcelino, with just three minutes lapsing.
They built on the momentum they got, going on a 7-0 run after to mount a 37-30 advantage.
Veteran big men Larry Muyang and Jeo Ambohot tried to rally the Knights back but they would remain down, 47-39, at the half.
In the third frame, veteran forward Jerrick Balanza, who missed last season because of brain tumor, waxed hot for Letran to make an early charge.
The Pirates, however, would find ways to keep their opponents at bay and stayed on top, 52-49, at the halfway point of the quarter.
Letran showed resilience the rest of the quarter to stay within striking distance and just be down, 64-62, heading into the fourth canto.
Balanza once again jolted the Knights to a strong start in the fourth quarter. Towing his team to a 10-2 run in the first three minutes to build a six-point lead, 72-66.
Jayvee Marcelino and the Pirates moved to charge back after, overtaking the Knights, 77-76, at the 2:18 mark.
A split free throw by Ambohot tied the count at 77-all entering the last two minutes.
Jaycee Marcelino broke the tie with an and-1 play with 1:22 left to make it, 80-77, for Lyceum before he added another deuce of a fastbreak to extend their lead to five points, 82-77, with 50 seconds left.
A triple by guard Bonbon Batiller with 43 ticks to go pulled the Knights to within two points, 82-80.
They still had a chance to tie the count or win but they failed to make something out of their chance on offense and the Pirates took advantage of it to post the win.
Lyceum, which played sans import Mike Nseusseu who was out with a fractured finger, was led by Jaycee Marcelino with 24 points while his twin Jayvee had 18 markers.
Guard Reymar Caduyac, meanwhile, finished with 16 points of his own for the Pirates.
For Letran it was Balanza who top-scored with 19 points followed by Muyang with 14 and Ato Ular 12.
Lyceum next plays on Friday, July 12, against the Emilio Aguinaldo College Generals and Letran takes on the Arellano University Chiefs also on the same date.