Lyceum bolsters NCAA title credentials after near upset over top UAAP team La Salle
CJ Perez has proven a perfect fit in helping Lyceum stand out in the preseason. Dante Peralta

THE La Salle gallery gave Lyceum a round of applause when it was its turn to sing their school hymn following the thrilling Filoil Flying V Preseason Premier Cup semifinals on Friday.

For LPU coach Topex Robinson, it was a sign that the Pirates are in the right direction as they continue to form a winning culture within the team.

LPU nearly pulled off an upset over La Salle in its semifinal match, as the Pirates were one good possession away from formally sealing a finals berth in the Filoil tournament.

A turnover by Jasper Ayaay dashed their championship aspirations in the Filoil Cup as it led to a three-point play by Santi Santillan which helped the Green Archers steal the victory from the Pirates, 100-99.

"The highlight for us is when we were singing our hymn, the whole community was clapping for us and that is what's important for us. The respect that we earned is something that I think a win cannot... hindi mapapalitan. Again it's a testament of our culture. We want to do it the right way. We win the right way, we lose the right way," said Robinson.

The Pirates were down by as many as eight points in the fourth quarter, but managed to build momentum and come back from the game. Down 97-94, LPU's foreign player Mike Nzeusseu completed a three-point play from a lob pass by CJ Perez to tie the match.

Off a La Salle miss, LPU went in transition and led to Reymar Caduyac scoring the go-ahead lay-up with 35.7 seconds to play in the match, 99-97.

Then came Santillan's three-point play.

[SeeĀ Aldin Ayo hits out at questionable calls from refs after La Salle close call vs Lyceum]

Robinson was proud of the effort, despite letting the win slip away from their grasp, knowing that his wards did all they can to shock the Green Archers.

"Peace of mind," Robinson said as he quoted a saying from legendary UCLA coach John Wooden.

"Remember what John Wooden said that at the end of the day, as long as you know in your heart of hearts that that was your very best, you can get out of this dugout with your head up high and you can look yourself in the mirror. Kumbaga, hindi mo maloloko sarili mo na 'yun talaga ang best namin. Again, this is the top collegiate team in the country," Robinson said.

ADVERTISEMENT - CONTINUE READING BELOW

Robinson admitted he is still stung by the meltdown in the final seconds of the match, but felt the Pirates will learn a lot from the experience of losing a close match against the reigning UAAP champions.

"I have to give credit to coach Aldin (Ayo). We were few possessions that we could have gotten (the win). Everything happens because it was meant to happen. The experience that we have will just make us sharper," said Robinson.

"We always want to be in the finals but it's something that is in the past that we don't want to hold on to. We are focused on the now and what's in front of us. Again, I'm still in the state na it was tight (game)," he added.

The fight that LPU gave, however, is enough reason for Robinson to really move on from the tough preseason defeat as they are weeks away from the NCAA tournament.

"But, we just kept on playing. Five minutes, we were down by eight points, we could have just folded, roll down, and die. But again, we just kept on playing. That's what's important," said Robinson.

Follow the writer on Twitter: @reubensports