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Pirates enter unchartered territory, secure semis spot

Rivals tried 13 times to put a dent on Lyceum of the Philippines University’s record. Thirteen times the Pirates escaped unscathed. LPU shook off a rusty start and a gritty University of Perpetual Help side,94-83, Thursday for its breakthrough Final Four stint in the 93 surd /su NCAA senior basketball competition at the FilOil Flying V Centre in San Juan. The Pirates flirted with disaster up until late in the fourth frame before pulling away for good to fashion out a 13-0 win-loss record and a trip to the next round for the first time since joining the league in 2011. “It's really something that we are not accustomed to but part of the journey is making it here,” said LPU coach Topex Robinson, whose squad finished ninth last season. CJ Perez and Spencer Pretta took care of the offense in the Intramuros-based squad’s sluggish first 20 minutes. But LPU needed a complete team effort in the closing frame to create enough separation to silence the Prince Eze-led Altas. Perez finished with 21 points and came up an assist short for a double-double for LPU. Mike Nzeusseu had a double-double with 15 points and 15 rebounds, Jayvee Marcelino added 15 markers, Spencer Pretta had 12 while Jaycee Marcelino chipped in with 11 for the Pirates, who destoyed the Altas,76-58, in the first round. Robinson gambled on putting Perez and Jesper Ayaay on defense against Eze and paid dividends.   “We have to counter their height because Eze is there. Good thing it paid good dividends sa amin,” he said. “It's just a blessing to have these players because you don't need to coach them.” Nzeusseu gave the Pirates an 83-70 lead with 4:21 remaining in the match from a couple of charties. Keith Pido kept Perpetual in the game with a layup to cut down their deficit, 85-81, in the last two minutes. Perez scored off a steal at the backcourt before Jaycee Marcelino buried the dagger from behind the arc for the Pirates' finishing kick, 92-81, with 41.5 seconds remaining in the ball game.           Perpetual, which held a 19-16 lead at the end of the first, absorbed its eighth loss in 12 games tied with Arellano University. Eze finished with 26 points on a 13-of-18 shooting clip, grabbed 20 rebounds and swatted away seven shots in a lost cause for the Las Pinas-based squad while Gab Dagangon and Flash Sadiwa had 17 and 13 markers, respectively.    ---          Follow this writer on Twitter, @fromtheriles .....»»

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