Lyceum Pirates snap skid, add to San Sebastian Stags' misery
Shane Ko of Lyceum soars for a shot as San Sebastiab defenders look on. Dante Peralta

LYCEUM gained significant contribution from unlikely sources as it turned back San Sebastian, 71-64, on Wednesday at The Arena in San Juan to get back on the winning track in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament.

In a battle of skidding squads, it was the Pirates who showed more desire to put an end to their losing streak, banking on a breakaway in the middle quarters to register a fifth victory in nine games.

Rookies Jose Gabayni and Guy Mbida delivered as usual, but with backcourt tandem Dexter Zamora and Shane Ko firing blanks, the Pirates leaned on Wilson Baltazar and Tirso Lesmoras to snap a two-game skid.

The Pirates also added to the misery of the Stags, who suffered a fourth successive defeat.

“We were just more focused this time,” Pirates coach Bonnie Tan said as his team won relatively convincingly for a change after winning the previous four times with a margin of six points or less.

Baltazar was at the forefront of the Pirates’ attack, firing 18 points, including half in the third quarter where the Intramuros-based dribblers built enough cushion, which ballooned to 19 points, to fend off a late stand by the Stags.

Lesmoras, the pint-sized third-string point guard, also provided a spark, scattering 10 points in just eight minutes off the bench to pick up the slack left by Zamora and Ko, who combined for just six points.

Gabayni proved why he is a top Rookie of the Year candidate, tallying a double-double of 14 points and 14 boards on top of two blocks, while Mbida was also a rebound away from a double-double with 13 points along with two steals, one block, and one assist.

The Pirates also shone on defense, shackling Jamil Ortuoste, one of the Stags’ go-to guys who wound up scoreless as he missed all his four shots, dished out a solitary assist and committed three turnovers in 25 minutes, although the sophomore playmaker did have four rebounds and three steals.

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The scores:

LPU 71 – Baltazar 18, Gabayni 14, Mbida 13, Lesmoras 10, Maconocido 5, Zamora 4, Taladua 3, Malabanan 2, Ko 2, Soliman 0, Bulawan 0, Elmejrab 0

SSC 64 – Guinto 22, Perez 13, Dela Cruz 6, Camasura 6, Pretta 6, Balucanag 4, Calisaan 2, Fabian 2, Yong 2, Aquino 1, Ortuoste 0, Costelo 0, Mercado 0

Quarterscores: 12-18, 31-28, 56-42, 71-64 

Follow the writer on Twitter: @KarloSacamos