CEBU CITY – The University of San Jose-Recoletos Jaguars ended a decade-long finals drought with an 80-66 beating of the University of San Carlos Warriors in the semifinals of the 2018 Cesafi men’s basketball tournament on Saturday at the Cebu Coliseum.
USJ-R came all the way back from 21 points down to grab the win and take a step closer towards getting their very first Cesafi championship.
Down 12-33 early in the second, Jaguars point guard and reigning MVP Jaybie Mantilla’s admitted remembering their colossal meltdown against the University of Cebu went through his mind where they held a twice-to-beat advantage and still lost to the Webmasters.
Adamant that that wouldn’t happen again, Mantilla went on a tear, firing in four three-pointers in the second to help USJ-R close the gap, 37-45, at halftime. A 22-8 run in the third capped by a tough deuce by Miguel Gastador shoved the Jaguars in front, 59-53, heading to the fourth canto.
The Warriors tried to keep close but a stepback jumper by Tricky Peromingan and a right-wing three-pointer by Nichole Ubalde shut the door on USC as it gave USJ-R a 79-66 lead, with 1:06 to go.
Mantilla narrowly missed a triple-double with 22 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists.
“This is my final season playing for USJ-R. I just wanted to give something back to the school and the community that has supported us all this years,” said Mantilla.
Mantilla got plenty of help as four others scored in double figures. Gastador added 13 points, four rebounds, three assists and two steals while Segamars Ewenike and Ubalde had 12 markers each and combined for 17 rebounds. RJ Dinolan, who missed his graduation ceremonies in lieu of this game, chipped in 10 points and six rebounds.
This finals appearance is USJ-R’s first in a decade. The last time the Jaguars made it this far was in 2008 when the Jaguars lost to the University of the Visayas, who at the time, still had current Barangay Ginebra star, Greg Slaughter.
Sommy Managor paced USC with 17 points while John Reel Saycon had 15.