WITH the initial target of making the Final Four in the NCAA Season 93 already achieved, Jose Rizal University now sets it sights on a bigger goal: to play spoiler to Lyceum’s bid for an elimination round sweep and prevent a tiring stepladder route in the semifinals.
The Heavy Bombers are one of the last two teams to take a crack at the Pirates’ immaculate record when they clash on Friday at the Filoil Flying V Center in San Juan.
The Pirates need to get past JRU and San Beda to gain an automatic finals berth. That would leave the second to fourth teams going through a stepladder semifinals format.
That is something coach Vergel Meneses would want to avoid as he hopes to make the semifinals on a winning note.
However, the longest tenured coach in the league knows it's easier said than done.
The last time these two teams faced, the Heavy Bombers got blown out 96-75 to mark the first of the Pirates’ 16 victories this season.
Meneses attributes Lyceum’s success to the coaching of Topex Robinson and the willingness of his players to put everything on the line day-in and day-out.
“They are well coached. Nakita niyo how they compete every game. Di naman ganun, sabihin natin na hindi ganun ka-talented yung team, pero napupunan ng sobrang sipag at puso nung mga bata,” said Meneses.
“Nakita niyo lumaban every game? Parang walang bukas e. Nakakainggit yung mga players na ganun,” he added.
Despite the lopsided loss in the first round, Meneses believes that these Pirates are very much beatable – if his players are willing to work for it.
Meneses also praised Lyceum star CJ Perez, whose determination rubs off on his teammates.
“Kaya sila talunin. Nakita naman natin sa preseason, we lost only because of our late turnovers. So beatable pero kailangan i-outwork mo sila kasi hindi sila bibigay, ganun ang puhunan nila. Di naman sila ganun ka-talented yung team, ang talagang magaling lang halos dun is si Perez,” Meneses continued.
“Pero nakita niyo how Perez makes his teammates work. Dahil masipag yung bata, nahihiya sa kanya yung mga teammates niya. Nagpapakamatay eh. Nakikita niyo kung dumepensa diba? That’s why they’re successful. They want to win.”
For Meneses, controlling the tempo would be key to putting a dent on Lyceum’s record – though they should also make these Pirates work by attacking their trap.
“Definitely it should be a low-scoring game for us. We have to limit them. Pero kami we have to attack them kasi nagpepress sila lagi, we have to attack them. Balanced scoring sila e, si Perez lang mataas then the rest balanced scoring na, it’s hard to defend that.”