MANILA, Philippines – After going toe-to-toe in Game 1 of the NCAA Season 93 finals last Friday, San Beda College's Robert Bolick and Lyceum of the Philippines University's CJ Perez cannot wait for the next round of their duel.
The day started with Perez lifting the MVP trophy, and he lived up to his billing by firing 25 points on top of eight rebounds and two assists for the Pirates, who entered the game with an unbeaten 18-0 win-loss record.
However, it was Bolick who led his team to victory. The San Beda guard fired 24 points, adding four rebounds and two assists, as the Red Lions shocked the Pirates, 94-87, for a 1-0 lead in the best-of-three finals series.
Bolick was at his best in the fourth quarter, making nine of San Beda's final 11 points of the game. Afterward, he and Perez had a nice, friendly chat at midcourt, with the Red Lion saying he made it a point to congratulate the King Pirate for his superb season.
"Sabi ko sa kanya, good job, see you on Game 2, and congratulations for the MVP. You deserve it," said Bolick of his discussion with Perez.
Bolick, who first made a name for himself as a defensive stopper before turning into a crunch time hero for San Beda, noted that Perez cannot be truly stopped.
"You just force him to tough shots, force him to miss. But he's going to make shots," said Bolick. "In the fourth quarter, he scored seven straight points. The guy's good, give it to him. He's the MVP, he deserves it."
Thus, Bolick fully expects Perez to come up with an even stronger effort in Game 2 on Thursday.
"We look forward to Game 2," said Bolick. "Sabi niya sa akin, he's going to win Game 2."
Indeed, Perez enjoyed their Game 1 duel as much as Bolick did.
"Sabi ko, huwag silang bibitaw kasi kukunin namin sa kanila. Pero joke lang 'yun kanina," said Perez. "'Yung nga, sabi ko sa kanya, babawi kami."
"Magkikita pa kami sa Game 2, 'yun lang ang sabi ko sa kanya," he added.
Asked if the Finals will go to a winner-take-all Game 3, Perez said: "Oo naman, siyempre."
For Bolick, his ongoing battle with Perez – the two have been dueling since San Beda and Lyceum met in round one of the Season 93 tournament – is just one reason why the championship series is so compelling.
"That's the beauty of basketball – the competition," said Bolick. "At the end of the day, we're still friends.
"But inside the court, we want to win."
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