LYCEUM of the Philippines University Pirates — NCAA/GMA

By Joey Villar

ENOCH Valdez was forcing plays in his first three games that hurt his Lyceum of the Philippines University (LPU) team more than it helped them. Then he decided to revert to his old but effective ways of allowing the ball to just come to him instead.

Using this mindset, Mr. Valdez dished out one of the best games of his life in powering LPU to an 82-75 victory over Jose Rizal University (JRU) on Wednesday for its first win in the 97th National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) basketball tournament at the La Salle Greenhills Gym in Mandaluyong.

The Mangatarem, Pangasinan native dropped 21 points by making nine of the 17 shots he took and spiked it with 12 rebounds and five steals that helped hand the Pirates their first triumph while ending a three-game losing skein.

“I just told him (Mr. Valdez) to return to his strengths and not force things, I’m happy he responded to the challenge,” said rookie coach Gilbert Malabanan, a former PBA player who took the reins from Jeff Perlas.

For Mr. Valdez, it was their faith to the system and to each other that helped them get over the hump.

“We just learned how to trust each other and the system,” said Mr. Valdez, who said he would go back to the gym to do a workout as soon as they returned to the practice facility.

McClaude Guadana and Yancy Remulla provided help by firing 14 and 10 points, respectively.

But it was Mr. Valdez who shone the brightest who scored five points in a key run that erased a 73-72 deficit with over two minutes to go and gave the Pirates the lead for good.

The JRU Bombers appeared in control early and led by 12 points, 24-12, after the opening quarter.

But the Kalentong-based dribblers failed to sustain it in the end as Mr. Valdez went to work to deliver the decisive blows.

JRU dropped to 0-4.

The scores:

LPU 82 – Valdez 21, Guadana 14, Remulla 10, Larupay 9, Cunanan 6, Bravo 6, Barba 6, Guinto 4, Navarro 3, Garro 3, Umali 0.

JRU 75 – Celis 24, Delos Santos 14, Dionisio 14, Agbong 11, Macatangay 5, Gonzales 3, Jungco 2, Arenal 2, Aguilar 0, Guiab 0, Bongay 0.

Quarterscores: 12-24; 38-40; 61-61; 82-75.