CEBU CITY – The defending champions University of San Carlos Warriors made their way back to the Cesafi finals after beating the University of the Visayas, 72-65, in a wild semifinal game that was delayed by over an hour due to a threatening message that was written on the mirror inside the dugout of the Green Lancers, on Thursday night at the Cebu Coliseum.
Emotions that were already on edge took a turn for the worst at halftime as UV head coach Gary Cortes refused to continue with the game after he and the rest of his squad discovered that their dugout had been vandalized with the phrase “AYAW MO PAPILDI” (Don’t get beaten) written in red ink.
The phrase was considered to be threatening at the time, as the result of UV-USC match would also decide the fate of Southwestern University-Phinma.
Fearing for their safety, Cortes initially balked at having his players continuing with the match but was later appeased by team manager, Gerald Anthony “Samsam” Gullas.
The incident appeared to have lit a fire from under UV as they went on to lead by 11, 45-34, early in the third after a leaner by Rey Suerte and a three by Josue Segumpan.
But USC recovered and grabbed the lead for good after an 8-0 run capped by a transition bucket by Conrad Catapusan and a hook shot by Congolese big man Scotty Ntumba, with 3:26 left in the contest.
UV last threatened at 64-65 after Suerte drilled a triple with 1:55 remaining. But USC put the win in the bag with a fadeaway jumper by Ian Tagapan and a lay-up by Ntumba to go up, 69-64, with just 26.9 seconds left in the match.
Victor Rabat led the Warriors in scoring with 26 huge points while Catapusan and Ntumba added 12 and 11, respectively.
The victory gave USC a spot in the finals where they will be facing off against this very same UV squad in a rematch of last season’s finals showdown, which the former won in a hard-fought five game series.
USC, UV and Southwestern University-Phinma all ended up with similar 2-1 (win-loss) records at the end of the round-robin semis but the Warriors and the Lancers nabbed the finals berths by virtue of their higher point differentials. UV was a plus 5, USC was a plus 4 while SWU had a minus 9.
USC Warriors (72) - Rabat 26, Catapusan 12, Ntumba 11, Oleodo 9, Tagapan 7, Laguyo 5, Munez 2.
UV Green Lancers (65) - Suerte 19, Balabag 8, Soliva 8, Sackor 7, Gahi 5, Sgumpan 5, Codilla 4, Saga 4, Albina 3, Napao 2.
Quarterscores: 16-13, 30-33, 50-52, 72-65