CEBU CITY - Two-time defending champion University of Cebu posted its first victory of the season, beating Cebu Institute of Technology-University Wildcats, 83-78, in the 12th Cebu Schools Athletic Foundation Inc. (Cesafi) men’s basketball tournament on Friday at the Cebu Coliseum.
After dominating down south for two years behind awesome big man June Mar Fajardo, the projected top pick in this year’s PBA draft, the Webmasters have fallen into rough times but found a ray of hope in the play of “Lone Star” guard Brian Heruela, the remaining vanguard from the championship team of the last two seasons.
Heruela, a stocky Filipino-American guard who hails from Texas, put up 25 points and had 21 boards, including a crucial offensive rebound in the dying seconds that helped the Webmasters stretch a precarious two-point lead.
He also had a block and a steal in the final 1.4 seconds that sealed the team’s breakthrough win of the season.
UC enjoyed several 11-point leads in the game, the last at 64-53 in the fourth period after a three by Robinson Mohamad.
However, CIT-U, which played without suspended Floyd Taboada, fought back behind a 12-3 run anchored on consecutive three-pointers by Jeffrey Taghoy to threaten at 65-67.
The Wildcats further closed in at 76-77 on a three-pointer by Bridrik Brigoli, the last of his five treys for the game, and even had a shot at taking the lead after power forward Zandro Palileo, was fouled with 30.5 seconds left. The transferee from the University of San Jose-Recoletos though, missed both attempts.
Heruela and CIT-U guard, Axel Rabaya, then exchanged free throws as UC stayed in the lead, 79-78.
Sent to the line again, Heruela made his first foul shot but missed the second, only to snare the offensive rebound and was fouled. He split his charities again to make it 81-78 in the final 5.7 seconds.
The Wildcats had one last shot at sending the game into overtime, but Heruela intercepted a pass by Allen Dimco, resulting in two free throws for the UC guard for the final count.
Unlike the last game where Heruela was left to do much of the worl, he had plenty of help this time as rookie guard Kido Cabrera finished with 16 points and Jan Auditor and Kim Gomez each contributing 14 markers.
Last weekend, the University of San Jose-Recoletos Jaguars registered the upset of the season as they brought down the much-heralded Southwestern University Cobras, 80-72.
The Cobras had been tipped to shine this season following the arrival of two African imports in 6-foot-7 center Justin Aboude and 6-7 rookie wingman Ben Mbala.
USJ-R though, fought back from several 10-point deficits in the second half and put the game away behind three reserves in the Parker brothers, Matthew and Christian, and Medjet dela Rama.