Things became bleaker than ever when the Zark’s-Lyceum Jawbreakers lost main man CJ Perez due to foul trouble in their do-or-die match with the CEU Scorpions in the 2018 D-League Aspirants’ Cup quarters, Tuesday.
The do-it-all guard-forward was whistled for his fifth foul still with 4:54 remaining in the bout. Perez exited with just eight points — far from his 26-point outburst last Tuesday — along with six rebounds, four assists, and a block.
But as they say, success comes after adversity. And in Zark’s-Lyceum’s case, it was MJ Ayaay who made things happen after Perez’ departure.
Ayaay, together with Jayvee Marcelino, took over for the Jawbreakers down the stretch, spearheading a 21-5 scoring spree that wiped out an 11-point deficit and ultimately led to an 82-77 victory over CEU to book a ticket to the semis.
“Lamang sila eh, nasa isip ko wala na si CJ,” reflected the 24-year-old, who finished with 15 points, four rebounds, four steals, and a block.
“Beterano ako, si Coach Topex [Robinson] umaasa sa’kin — ayoko namang mawala yung tiwala niya.”
Looking at the stats, Zark’s-Lyceum were out-rebounded badly, 37-57, but their defense proved to be a huge factor in the win, as they forced CEU to 31 turnovers. And for Ayaay, the credit goes to his fellow Jawbreaker.
“Sinasabi ko sa mga teammate ko, tulungan kami especially on defense,” he said.
Zark’s-Lyceum, just as they did in the NCAA Season 93, shocked everyone yet again with Tuesday’s win. However, a big test is on their way once more, as they are about to face second seed Marinerong Pilipino.
It may be another high wall to climb, but Ayaay and the Jawbreakers have no plans of backing down.
“Sa’kin hangga’t buhay may pag-asa eh,” said the 6-foot utility forward. “Hangga’t buhay may pag-asa. ‘Wag lang basta-basta susuko kasi bilog naman ang bola eh. Kahit lamang sila, keep on grinding lang, sabi nga ni Coach Topex.
“Motivation namin ayaw namin mapahiya kasi mataas yung expectation nila coach at yung mga boss sa’min.”