INSTEAD of sulking over a bitter end to an otherwise impressive season, league MVP CJ Perez walked out of the Smart Araneta Coliseum with his head high.
Tears were shed in the locker room as the Pirates' 18-0 sweep of the NCAA elimination round went down the drain after falling in two games to the more experienced San Beda Red Lions in the finals.
Perez, however, said the season is not the end but a beginning for the vastly improved Pirates.
“It’s a good experience pa rin para sa amin. ‘Di kami mag-excuse na first time namin, pero at least, binigay namin yung best namin sa game na to,” said the 23-year-old Pangasinense.
Madami pa, ‘di pa naman nagtatapos dito ang basketball
The high-flying Perez lived up to his billing after posting averages of 23.5 points, five rebounds, 3.5 assists and 1.5 steals in the two championship games.
It just so happened that they faced an experienced San Beda team that knew how to win games in the biggest stage.
Perez hopes that come next year, they’ll be better equipped to deal with these situations.
“Siguro mas composed sila sa endgame. Pero para sa amin, magandang season pa rin ito. Masaya kami kasi atleast, binigay namin 'yung best namin at wala kaming pagsisihan… yun nga, nabitin, pero magandang experience ito para sa amin,” said Perez.
From finishing ninth last year with a 6-12 record, the Pirates underwent an amazing transformation and exceeded expectations.
That turnaround was heavily attributed to Perez’ arrival, but the Lyceum star wasn’t having any of it.
“Hindi sa akin 'yun nag-umpisa. Siyempre, nagsimula yun sa coach, di ba. Nung nagpapanalo na kami, ‘di kami nagbibitaw sa isa’t-isa. ‘Di sa akin nag-umpisa, sa amin nag-umpisa yung culture,” said Perez.
“Hindi 'yun magbabago. Kahit matapos yung season, ‘di kami maghihiwa-hiwalay,” he added.
Now, the season begins again for Lyceum.
“We’re not gonna promise anything. Siyempre, lalaruin lang namin basketball namin. 'Pag tapos nito, kinabukasan, yun na ang start ng Season 94 sa amin.”