THE University of San Carlos got back at finals tormentor Southwestern University as the Warriors essayed a 76-64 victory over the Cobras in the 15th Cebu Schools Athletic Foundation Inc. (Cesafi) men’s basketball tournament on Sunday at the Cebu Coliseum.
The Warriors lost grip of a huge 18-point third quarter lead, but easily got their composure back and unleashed a backbreaking 20-5 endgame run to clinch the win against the same team that beat them for the title last year.
A keyhole jumpshot from Mavii Suarez, a transition lay-up by Victor Rabat, a triple by Nico Magat and an inside bucket by Cameroonian Shooster Olago put the Warriors back in the driver's seat, 65-59, after trailing 59-56 when they suddenly lost their 18-point lead.
The Cobras, playing undermanned with only nine players, briefly stopped the bleeding with a basket by Melvin Holper, but USC forward Charles Pepito banked in a shot while getting fouled for a three-point play that pushed the lead back to 68-61 with 2:56 left.
Olago, Magat and Kiefer Lim then sealed the win for the Warriors following crucial freethrows made in the stretch run.
The win somehow eased the pain of the Warriors loss to the Cobras in a tough five-game championship series last season.
Olago had a field day against the Cobras’ undersized frontline which he torched for 14 points, 15 rebounds, four assists, three steals and a block.
Magat led the team in scoring with 16 markers, Pepito had 12, while Ian Tagapan tallied 11.
Reigning league MVP Mac Tallo paced the besieged Cobras with 14 points, 11 rebounds, three assists and three steals but did not do the team any favor by committing seven turnovers.
John Lloyd Luz chipped in 12 while Holper, brother of former PBA player Mike Holper, contributed 11, spiked by three triples.
Earlier, USC appeared headed to an easy win as it led, 47-29, after opening the third quarter with a blistering 15-3 run.
But the Cobras responded with a run of their own – a 20-3 blast – to close the gap to 50-49 heading to the final period.
Meanwhile in the juniors division, the USC Baby Warriors completed a twinkill for the school following a merciless 102-33 win over Don Bosco.
USC (76) - Magat 16, Olago 14, Pepito 12, Tagapan 11, Suarez 9, Ortega 6, Rabat 5, Lim 5, Laguyo 3.
SWU (64) - Tallo 14, Luz 12, Holper 11, Racho 9, Pardo 9, Bautista 5, Auditor 4.
Quarterscores: 20-16; 32-26; 50-49; 76-64.