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Keys to Victory: Lyceum-San Beda Finals series

After five months of fun-filled and action-packed games, the best of the best remain.

Lyceum and San Beda will finally have the chance to go at it again, this time with the NCAA Season 93 championship at stake.

With their first two duels easily going down as the top games of the season, the clash between the Pirates and the Red Lions is no doubt going to be a must-see TV.

However, both teams will be looking to expose even the slightest edge to tilt the title favor to their
respective side.

Here are INQUIRER’s keys to victory for this year’s NCAA Finals.

Sharper saw

Coming off a 19-day layoff, San Beda didn’t look like it missed a beat, escaping San Sebastian, 76-71 last Tuesday to win in the stepladder semis.

That shifts the spotlight to Lyceum, which will be coming into Friday’s game from a 22-day break after last seeing action last October 19 to complete the unprecedented 18-game eliminations sweep.

Coach Topex Robinson has tried his best to keep his wards sharp, but will the near-one month break affect the psyche of the Pirates going into the series against the Red Lions?

Under pressure

Truth be told, this is a post-season of firsts for Lyceum — first NCAA playoff appearance and first Finals appearance.

Another first for the Pirates will be playing in big venues, and with the best-of-three Finals all scheduled at Smart Araneta Coliseum, their mettle will surely be tested under the brightest of lights and with crowds expected to swell to the rafters.

Lyceum’s games have been a crowd-drawer all year long, with the biggest trove of fans coming in that final eliminations assignment against San Beda, a 107-105 double overtime classic which felt like a championship game.

But playing in the historic Big Dome is a beast of its own, and Robinson has subjected his Pirates to soak in the atmosphere, bringing the team to UAAP games during their extended break.

That’s a factor which could really come in handy for the Red Lions, as they are no strangers to being in venues of this magnitude, playing season openers and this time, their 12th straight Finals appearance.

Cashing in

It’s not often that an opposing team gets the better of coach Boyet Fernandez.

And with San Beda yet to topple the mighty Lyceum crew, the multi-titled mentor sure is motivating his crew to prove the doubters wrong.

But for the Red Lions to do just that, they have to catch fire from downtown and make the most of their outside shooting prowess.

San Beda has been ahead of everyone this season in utilizing the three-ball, shooting a league-best 35.3-percent, with Clint Doliguez, AC Soberano, and main man Robert Bolick all figuring in the league’s top 10.

The one man who could help the Red Lions go over the hump will be Davon Potts, who was used sparingly through the course of the eliminations but made his presence felt in the semifinals against the Golden Stags both on offense and defense.

Pace or set

It’s no surprise that the immaculate Lyceum is at the top of majority of the statistical categories. Points, rebounds, assists, steals — you name it, the Pirates are the best.

But what makes this Intramuros side dangerous is their frantic pace as the players have shown no let-ups when it comes to pushing the ball.

Lyceum has thrived on the madness it enforces on its games, allowing it to take 7.1 steals which leads to 16.1 fastbreak points.

On the other hand, San Beda makes the most of its deliberate sets as evidenced by it nabbing the league’s slowest pace.

The question now is whose game will prevail once the ball gets tipped: the Pirates’ gung-ho attack or the Red Lions’ calculated approach?

Let’s get physical?

Lyceum’s relentlessness also bites it in the back whenever the referees call the games tight.

And for San Beda, that might just be the opening it needs to finally puncture a hole on the Pirates’ ship.

The Red Lions have shown that they won’t hesitate cashing in on those charities, as they are the league’s
second-best free throw shooting team with their 70.6-percent clip.

Those charities were also the biggest difference maker in San Beda’s semifinals clash against San Sebastian, and almost won them the game in their second round clash against Lyceum.

For the Pirates to finish what they started, they have to make the right adjustments while maintaining the intensity of their dizzying defense.

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