For all the milestones that his team has achieved this season—an elimination round sweep and a first finals appearance, Lyceum coach Topex Robinson still doesn’t think the Pirates are the heavy favorites in the NCAA Season 93 championship series against defending champion San Beda starting Friday at Smart Araneta Coliseum.
For one, Robinson said his team didn’t have the championship culture that the Red Lions had established over the past 11 seasons in the NCAA, where San Beda had lost just twice in the finals.
The Pirates are the latest challengers to the throne of the Lions, whose iron-fisted grip of the league has thrown traditional powerhouses San Sebastian and Letran under the shade for most of the past decade.
“It’s obvious that they’re determined to win,” said Robinson, who was part of the television panel that called the Lions’ 76-71 win over the Stags in a knockout duel last Tuesday.
“At the end of the day, they’re the stronger team and they have more experience than us. Their experience showed against San Sebastian and we know what we have to face. They have a good group of guys that are motivated to show that they are the defending champions.”
The regular season results, however, point to the Pirates as the team to beat in the finals.
They clobbered teams by double-digit margins in 13 of their 18 wins. And although they did come away with a couple of narrow wins against the Lions, the Pirates were in control for most of those two games.
“Right now, Lyceum is the best team (in the league) because they beat us twice,” said San Beda coach Boyet Fernandez, on his second stint as Lions coach after steering the team to back-to-back crowns in 2013 and 2014. “We’re the underdogs in the series. But again, we’ll find a way to win.”
The Lions are no strangers to these type of situations even in the midst of one of college basketball’s most dominant runs with Fernandez recalling the time San Beda overcame a San Sebastian team led by now PBA star Calvin Abueva.
“That time, San Sebastian was the favorite, but San Beda came and won so we might see history repeat itself,” Fernandez said. “For us, we’ll just take it one game at a time.”
Interesting matchups abound in the finals with Lyceum star CJ Perez and San Beda’s Robert Bolick all eager to prove their worth in the NCAA’s biggest stage.
“The excitement is there, but it’s a matter of channeling it to positivity,” said Robinson. “We know it’s our first time to be in this level and it’s really unchartered territory. We know that we got nothing to lose and we’re happy where we are.”