BEST OF 5 Part 1: The LPU Pirates are knocking on the door of history
SAILING! LPU is well-rested and well-prepared for its first-ever FInals and first time at the Araneta Coliseum. (In-article photos courtesy of LPU Manila Facebook)
Read Part 2 of ABS-CBN Sports’ Best of 5 series on the LPU Pirates here.
Read Part 3 of ABS-CBN Sports’ Best of 5 series on the LPU Pirates here.
Read Part 4 of ABS-CBN Sports’ Best of 5 series on the LPU Pirates here.
Read Part 5 of ABS-CBN Sports’ Best of 5 series on the LPU Pirates here.
The best-ever start to the season in the 93-year history of the NCAA belongs to Lyceum of the Philippines University.
Yes, that Pirate crew which has been in the league for only six years.
That best-ever start, 18 wins in 18 games, has put LPU straight into the Finals.
Meaning, not only have they made their first playoffs, they have also made their first championship round.
In doing so, the Pirates were also granted the luxury of a three-week break while watching their challengers in Colegio de San Juan de Letran, San Sebastian College-Recoletos, Jose Rizal University, and San Beda College go at it in successive knockout bouts.
And for now, their first-ever Finals is far from the minds of the Intramuros-based squad.
LOVE. SERVE. CARE.
After setting the league on fire through 18 games, their first agenda was to stay true to the three words on the back of their warmup shirts: “Love, Serve, Care.”
“We went to White Cross which is a home for kids who were abandoned,” head coach Topex Robinson shared. “It’s a part of letting them know how blessed they are to be in this situation right now.”
Last October 26, LPU visited the orphanage in San Juan to spend time with youngsters whom they want to inspire.
While that isn’t necessarily the typical preparation for a big game, it does help with the mental aspect of things – specifically, reminding them that they aren’t bigger than anything.
“Amongst us, we know how we handle things. They know that our job isn’t done, that we haven’t accomplished anything yet,” Robinson said. “Rather than boast and be proud, we did a lot of community service so again, it’s going back to service. We could be enjoying everything, but it’s always about helping back and giving back.”
HOME IS WHERE THE HEART IS
And so, two-thirds of the Pirates’ three-week break was devoted to both giving back and looking back.
According to their mentor, most of the players went back home to their provinces during the Halloween break. “I gave them three days off to go back to their families. Ang reminder ko dun when they went back is to try to remember where they started and how everything has gone for them,” he shared.
He then continued, “It’s always about remembering saan sila nanggaling before.”
Robinson went on to say how he reminded CJ Perez of how he went from Pangasinan to San Sebastian College-Recoletos and then transferring to Ateneo de Manila University only to find his home inside the Walls of Intramuros.
The same goes for Kim Cinco and Ralph Tansingco who floundered in National University and for Marcelino twins Jaycee and Jayvee who found no place in Adamson University. “It’s always about being grateful for where they are now,” the head coach said.
READY. SET. GO.
All of this means that mentally, LPU is more than prepared as it sees action in its first-ever Finals – which just so happens to also be its first time playing on the floor of the Araneta Coliseum.
Now that has been taken care of, they turn their attention to the game itself. “We were pretty much trying to take it lightly because we had three weeks, but we will be playing Alab (Pilipinas) in a tuneup match,” Robinson said.
He then continued, “It’s gonna be our first, pretty much, basketball (since October 19).”
That is why, on Sunday, the Pirates took on, and closely competed with, Ray Parks Jr.-led and Jimmy Alapag-coached Alab of the Asean Basketball League.
After that, they return to practice to re-ignite the flame that had them setting the league on fire for 18 games.
Nobody knows exactly what will happen in Game 1 of the NCAA 93 Finals on Friday at the Araneta Coliseum.
One thing is for sure, though: the LPU Pirates will cherish their first-ever Finals, their first time at the Araneta Coliseum, and their first chance to officially put their school at the top tier of teams.
After all, just six seasons ago, that was all but a dream for them.
LPU and whoever wins between San Beda and San Sebastian will wage war in Game 1 of the NCAA 93 Finals. All of the action will be on S+A, S+A HD, and sports.abs-cbn.com/livestream/ncaa.
Follow this writer on Twitter, @riegogogo.