No regrets for Perez, Lyceum after finals loss: ‘It was a good experience for us’
It may come as a surprise, but CJ Perez still had a smile on his face as he exited Smart Araneta Coliseum Thursday night
And he had every reason to still feel happy despite the Finals loss, seeing how big of a turnaround Lyceum pulled off this NCAA Season 93.
“We’re happy because we gave it our best,” said Perez said in Filipino after the Pirates ended their perfect 18-0 season with a runner up finish, losing to San Beda, 82-92 in Game 2.
Failing to cap off the historic eliminations romp with a title seems like a disappointment, but Perez said Lyceum can still hold its head high knowing that the result of coach Topex Robinson’s culture change exceeded everyone’s expectations.
“We don’t regret anything. Even though we lost, at least we gave it our all. We failed, but it was a good experience for us,” said Perez
Joining the NCAA in 2011, the Pirates paid their dues going from cellar-dwellers to dark horses. Even up until last year, their 6-12 finish came with the ignominy of being the lone squad to lose to erstwhile-winless St. Benilde.
But this season was when everything materialized for Lyceum, completing one of the biggest turns in the local collegiate scene after sweeping the eliminations and establishing itself as a legitimate title contender.
Perez was also a key cog in making that shift a reality, matching his hype with a Season Most Valuable Player after averaging 19.3 points, 6.5 rebounds, 3.6 assists, and 1.9 steals.
The Pangasinense forward continued that tear in the Finals, where he anchored the surprise top-seed Pirates in the tussle against the Red Lions and averaged 23.5 points, 5.0 rebounds, 3.5 assists, and 1.5 steals.
Unfortunately, Lyceum settled for second place.
However, the 23-year-old Perez argued that the Pirates have nothing to be ashamed about with how they fared this year.
“When we’re winning, we didn’t let go of each other. The change started in all of us and that culture will not change. Even though our season is over, we won’t leave each other,” he said.
And rather than be down, Perez noted that these hardships will just make the Lyceum bond stronger as it seeks to bounce back strong next season.
“We won’t promise anything, but we’ll just continue playing our game. After this, tomorrow will be the start of Season 94 for all of us,” he said.