WITHOUT main man CJ Perez for Game One of the NCAA Season 94 Finals, Lyceum desperately looked for a leader.
That absence couldn't have felt any more larger as San Beda went on and blew the Pirates out of the water with a 19-9 start and built a lead as high as 25.
"Syempre masakit sa amin na mawala si CJ kasi siya yung nagiging leader namin sa loob ng court pag nag-struggle kami," admitted Jaycee Marcelino.
It didn't mean, though, that Lyceum won't put its best effort as Mike Nzeusseu and the Marcelino twins slowly chipped the lead away before eventually running out of time, bowing to the mighty Red Lions, 73-60 on Tuesday.
Painful as the defeat was, the Pirates have no other choice but to move on.
And for Marcelino, that inspiring fourth-quarter burst, where Lyceum cut the lead down to as low as 10, 70-60, with a little over a minute remaining, is a good jumping point for the team especially with its back against the wall in the best-of-three championship series.
"Inisip ko talaga na lalaruin ko ang best ko, ibibigay ko ang lahat para matulungan ko ang team ko na makuha ang panalo. Malungkot lang kasi sa huli, kinapos nga," he rued.
"Masakit kay CJ na ganoon nga ang nangyari kasi last playing year na niya, hindi pa siya nakapaglaro ng (Game One ng) Finals. Pero ang mindset namin ngayon, wala na talagang next game."
Perez, too, will be back for Game Two as last season's NCAA Most Valuable Player tries to make up for lost time on Monday.
"We're excited to have CJ back in our lineup," admitted coach Topex Robinson, who seeks to make the most of the six-day break between the games.
"That’s just enough for us. That’s gonna give us enough time to experiment on things. Obviously, para may time din ang mga bata para makapagpahinga because this has been exhusting emotionally and it's hard to be in this situation. We don’t mind having that longer break because we need it."