Coach Topex: ‘We love him, but CJ knows we could win without him’

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TEAM EFFORT. MJ Ayaay took charge for LPU when CJ Perez fouled out of the game.

Behind for majority of the matchup and still by 13 with 4:18 remaining, Lyceum of the Philippines University looked to be headed to its first-ever defeat in the NCAA 93 Men’s Basketball Tournament.

In fact, head coach Topex Robinson was already readying a motivational message for when he and his wards headed back to the locker room. “Actually, naka-prepare na nga ako ng speech ‘cause I was already expecting na we were gonna lose this afternoon. I was going to tell the guys na whatever the experience we got here means ‘di tayo invincible team,” he shared.

He then continued, “If we’re not gonna play our basketball, any team could beat us. It could have happened this afternoon.”

The Pirates had other plans, however.

With Robinson’s go-to lineup of the Marcelino twins, MJ Ayaay, Mike Nzeusseu, and CJ Perez, they scored 14 unanswered points in a two-minute span to snatch away an 88-87 lead inside the last two minutes

Right in the ensuing possession, however, Perez was called for his fifth foul and the Chiefs scored four straight points of their own to take back the lead, 91-88.

It was then Ayaay’s time to shine as his personal 5-0 run fronted the Intramuros-based squad’s 6-1 closing kick.

And so, even without their main man inside the last two minutes, LPU pulled out a win. “The reminder here is this is not CJ’s team. No, it’s all of us,” Robinson said.

He then continued, “We love CJ on the team, but CJ knows also that we could win without him. He’s an important part of us, but it’s always a collective effort for us.”

Indeed, that go-to lineup saved the day for Robinson’s crew as Ayaay had 20 points and 10 rebounds; Caduyac had 15 points and seven rebounds; Jaycee Marcelino had 13 points, eight rebounds, four assists, and four steals; Nzeusseu had 15 points and 11 rebounds; and Perez had 14 points and 10 rebounds.

That kind of production is exactly what Robinson knew he would be getting from his boys, even if they were unable to get going for majority of the matchup. “I just told them that I really trust them and as long as we know we played our best basketball, it might not guarantee a win, but it’s a good learning experience for us,” he said.

He then continued, “At the end of the day, it’s the trust you give to them e. They’re gonna make mistakes and maha-high blood ka, but they also want to win.”

Fortunately for the always amiable mentor, his boys didn’t let him down as in all, they outscored their opponents 20-5 in the last four minutes.

Still, Robinson also reminded the Pirates that they couldn’t play like this if they are serious about their championship aspirations. “Hopefully, it’s a wakeup call for us that we have to keep on playing until the final buzzer sounds. I told them na wag na nating hintayin na matalo tayo bago magising,” he said.

He then continued, “I told them there would come a time na ganito talaga, but I just reminded them, ‘For you to be courageous, you just have to know that there’s someone in your back always ready to support you.’”

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