THE LYCEUM Pirates know their victory Monday night could end up as a mere footnote if the San Beda Red Lions eventually end up going all the way in NCAA Season 89.
But for a team that has found little success in the country’s oldest collegiate league, the stunning 70-66 upset over the three-time defending champions just meant so much—beyond just barging into the win column this season.
“We wanted to show the players that, for just once in their lives, all the hard work and sacrifice will get rewards,” said coach Bonnie Tan. “And if you work for it, good things will happen.”
The Pirates were on the wrong end of a couple of blowouts against the Lions in their first season in the league in 2011, losing by 34 points in a second-round meeting.
All told, the Pirates lost all their first four meetings with San Beda by a combined 99 points, including two more lopsided defeats last season when they finished dead—last among 10 teams while the Lions captured a third crown.
For Tan and the Pirates, Monday night would prove to be very special.
“If we really want to prove that we belong in this league, we must beat a big team and not just a contender,” said Tan. “We were in last place last year and we’re not taking that negatively. We believe that if the effort and teamwork is there, we will have a chance.”
According to Tan, the victory was weeks in the making—the Pirates pouring it all out in training while staying together in one house for quite some time in preparation for their season opener.
Slaying a champion needed utmost focus and the players had veered away from distractions, surrendering their mobile phones to the coaching staff for two days before the big game.
When they entered the Filoil Flying V Arena floor, it felt like the Pirates already got half the job done, coming out with a swagger and confidence not seen in their first two seasons in the league. The Pirates jumped the gun on the Lions with their aggressive play, leading from start to finish.