CEBU CITY – The Cebu Institute of Technology-University Wildcats stunned the second-seeded University of San Jose-Recoletos Jaguars, 68-66, to force a rubbermatch for the last ticket to the semifinal round of the 16th Cesafi men’s basketball tournament on Thursday night at the Cebu Coliseum.
The win was only the Wildcats’ second in 13 games this season and it could not have come at a better time, as they stand just a victory away from an improbable stint in the Final Four.
The deciding match will be played on Friday evening with the winner joining the unbeaten Southwestern University-Phinma, defending champions University of San Carlos and the University of the Visayas in the semis, which, interestingly, begins on Saturday.
Senior guard Marlo Pono was the Wildcats’ high-point man with 17 points which came with six rebounds and two assists. However, the usually unflappable veteran missed two free-throws with 9.2 seconds to go which would have extended their slim 68-66, leaving the door open for the Jaguars.
In the ensuing USJ-R offensive, Jaybie Mantilla misfired on what would have been the game-winning three-pointer to keep CIT-U’s season alive.
Pono’s backcourt mate, Wilkins Sanchez, also had a fantastic outing as he scored 16 points, grabbed five rebounds and had two assists and the same number of steals while crowd-favorite Primo Alicaway stepped up and scored 15, capped by a breakaway lay-up that put the Wildcats up 68-64, with 17 seconds remaining.
Five seconds later, the Jaguars trimmed the deficit in half after two charities by Mantilla leading to the game’s frantic finish.
Mantilla led the 10-man Jaguars with 21 points, seven boards and five assists while RJ Dinolan added 17. Usual reliables Miguel Gastador, Nelvin Navarra and Miguel Gastador, however, combined for just 17.
CIT-U Wildcats (68) - Pono 17, Sanchez 16, Alicaway 15, Ariar 10, Lucena 8, Munez 2.
USJ-R Jaguars (66) - Mantilla 21, Dinolan 17, Peromingan 8, Navarra 6, Nunez 5, Gastador 3, Catiloc 2, Jopia 2, Pastias 2.
Quarterscores: 19-15, 31-28, 50-49, 68-66