Pirates, Knights in KO duel

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    LYCEUM is out to reach the finals for the third straight year but Letran is equally-determined to reclaim lost glory.

    The No. 2 Pirates tackle the third-ranked Knights today in a knockout duel in the stepladder semifinals of the 95th NCAA basketball tournament at the Astrodome in Pasay.

    The match is set at 4 p.m., with the winner forging a best-of-3 titular showdown with defending three-time champion and unbeaten San Beda University.

    Game 1 of the finals is set on Nov. 12 at the Mall of Asia Arena.

    Despite losing main man CJ Perez, who now is turning out to be a star for Columbian in the pro league, due to graduation, Lyceum finished its elimination round campaign with a 13-5 card.

    Speedy twins Jaycee and Jayvee Marcelino, Raymar Caduyac, and 6-foot-5 Cameroonian slotman Mike Harry Nzeusseu are expected to lead the Pirates’ charge anew.

    Lyceum wound up as bridesmaid to the Red Lions in the Big Dance in the last two seasons.
    The Pirates are coming off a 65-82 loss to San Beda last Oct. 17.

    Letran graduating skipper and leader Jerrick Balanza vowed that the Knights’ do-or-die game against Lyceum will not be his swan song.

    “Hindi pa iyon ang magiging huling laro ko. Kung ako ang tatanungin, siyempre ayaw ko talaga. Ayaw ko pang magbakasyon,” said Balanza.

    “Gusto ko pang makasama ang teammates ko nang mas matagal. Ayoko pang maghiwa-hiwalay kami,” he added.

    In their no-tomorrow battle with No. 4 San Sebastian last Tuesday, the Knights showed they can rise to the challenge as they hacked out a thrilling 85-80 decision.

    Letran will pin its hopes on Balanza, burly big man Larry Muyang, Bonbon Batiller. Fran Yu, and Renato Ular in its bid to win its first title since 2015.

    The Pirates edged the Knights 84-80 in their first meeting last July 7 before following it up with a 97-90 triumph in the second round last Sept. 27.