MANILA, Philippines – After taking a backseat to CJ Perez for most of the NCAA Season 93 tournament, MJ Ayaay seized the opportunity to shine for Lyceum of the Philippines University in their most recent – and most tightly contested – game so far.
Ayaay's heroics in Lyceum's heart-stopping 94-92 victory over Arellano University last Friday was enough to propel the veteran forward to the Chooks-to-Go NCAA Press Corps Player of the Week award.
With the Pirates' unbeaten record in peril as they trailed the Chiefs by 13 points late in the game, Ayaay conspired with Perez and Jaycee Marcelino to lead a stunning comeback and thrilling endgame.
After Perez fouled out with two minutes left in the game and the result still in the balance, Ayaay stepped up to the plate, scoring five straight points including the go-ahead basket with 7.3 seconds left.
"Nakikinig kami sa isa't isa. Gusto lang talaga namin manalo," said Ayaay. "Tambak kami, (but) we just stayed positive pa rin."
"Kahit natatambakan kami, lagi ko lang sila mino-motivate," he added. "Hindi kami nawawalan ng pag-asa. Naniniwala kami na sa atin 'to, kaya natin 'to."
Ayaay's efforts against Arellano was a welcome development for Lyceum coach Topex Robinson, as it validated his belief that there is more to his team than the highly touted Perez.
"As much as we love having CJ around, this team is more than just a CJ Perez squad," said Robinson.
"Of course, CJ is a very big part of our team, but even he knows that he's just a part of the team, and that we can win without him," he added.
This is the second straight week that a Pirate has won the weekly award, after Perez took it last week.
Fellow Pirate Jaycee Marcelino, San Beda College's JV Mocon, De La Salle-College of St. Benilde's Edward Dixon, and Jose Rizal University's Tey Teodoro were the runners-up for the award.