The San Sebastian Stags made it physically tough for the Lyceum Pirates.
But, the Pirates showed that they were tougher down the stretch, and escaped with a 78-73 victory over the Stags on Friday night at the Arena in San Juan.
Their outside shooting missed their mark in the last 1:43, allowing the Pirates to register their 15thstraight win in the 93rd National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) men’s basketball tournament.
CJ Perez struck with his highest output so far, making 28 points and 10 rebounds for the Pirates, who are three games closer to an 18-game sweep of the elimination round, and an outright finals berth.
Perez’s back to back baskets in the last 5:15 allowed the Pirates to stay ahead by eight, 70-62.
But, a 9-2 rally behind Regille Ilagan’s three, and Enzo Navarro’s two three-point plays allowed the Pirates to move within reach, 71-72.
As the Pirates stepped it up with their zone defense, the Stags missed four times off their outside shots.
And from there, the Pirates moved out of range from Jesper Ayaay’s layup and Mike Nzeusseu’s freebies, 76-73.
“We really have to be mentally tough. There’s more to physical toughness, and it takes mental toughness. They (Stags) really play it physical. I told the boys that they’ll get bumped. At the end of the day, what’s important is the final score,” said Pirates coach Topex Robinson.
Allyn Bulanadi banged in 19 points for the Stags, who are in fifth with their 7-7 win-loss record.