UAAP: After getting MVP chants, Zavier Lucero deflects credit to UP teammates
MANILA, Philippines — Zavier Lucero received MVP chants from the University of the Philippines crowd after he sank a crucial triple in the final two-minute mark of their match against Far Eastern University on Saturday at Mall of Asia Arena.
Lucero delivered his best performance so far with a career-high 27 points and 12 rebounds as UP edged out FEU, 83-76, to end the UAAP Season 84 men’s basketball tournament’s first round with six straight victories — matching the school’s longest winning streak since 2004.
The Filipino-American forward halted the Tamaraws’ late run with a clutch three-pointer at the 1:50 mark to give the Fighting Maroons a 76-70 breather.
The UP crowd went ecstatic as MVP chants rained down on Lucero.
For the 6-foot-6 forward, it was flattering to hear such praise from the school’s supporters but he insisted it was the Maroons’ teamwork that made them successful in the first round with 6–1 record for the second seed.
“It’s flattering but like I said, we have one goal in this team. Everybody has the same goal, [and] that’s what’s special about us,” said Lucero, who shot 3-of-4 from deep. “There’s no individual accolades that are gonna make a difference if we aren’t able to do what we set out to do. So as long as we stay focused on that goal, then I like where we’re at.”
Lucero said FEU’s precarious 32-31 lead at the half was a wake-up call for their team as he came out firing in the third quarter, pouring 16 of his 27 points to put UP ahead.
“We didn’t wanna go into the second round on a loss, so we came out and I thought we played really well in the second half,” he said. “We got out to a strong start, and then our guys just made plays in the fourth quarter to keep them at bay.“
After tallying just two points, three rebounds and two assists in their loss to Ateneo on opening day , Lucero went on a roll and emerged as UP’s stabilizer, averaging 17.5 points, 9.2 rebounds, 2.0 steals and 0.8 blocks to win six straight games.
He attributed his breakthrough to coach Goldwin Monteverde’s system and their teamwork.
“I’m getting open looks a little more than some other guys, which is allowing me to be on the scoreboard. But as far as me personally, I don’t do much on my own,” Lucero said. “I get set up by my guys a lot, whether it’s a screen, like Carl (Tamayo) got my guy off that screen for the last three I hit. Maymay (Cagulangan) is usually finding me in places.”
“It’s just our team is really growing, and our chemistry is growing,” he added.
Lucero and the Maroons try to keep their winning run going against National University (4-3) on Holy Tuesday to kick off the second round.
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