CEBU CITY – The University of San Jose-Recoletos (USJ-R) Jaguars continued their drive for a Top-Two finish and a twice-to-beat advantage in the Final Four with an 84-73 win over the University of Southern Philippines Foundation (USPF) in the 2018 Cesafi men’s basketball tournament on Saturday at the Cebu Coliseum.
The win, USJ-R’s eighth in 11 games, gave them a tie with the idle University of the Visayas for second place in the standings, right behind the 9-2 University of Cebu.
The loss on the other hand, put USPF in a shaky position as they finished the elimination round with a 5-7 record. Although the Panthers are still in fourth spot, the University of San Carlos Warriors are just half-game away at 4-7 with one more game to play against Southwestern University (SWU)-Phinma on Tuesday.
The Jaguars were ahead by only five, 59-54, but brought their lead to 17, 73-56, behind a sizzling 15-2 blast bridging the third and fourth cantos, anchored on the baskets made by reigning league MVP Jaybie Mantilla, Nigerian big man Segamars Ewenike, and forwards RJ Dinolan and Nichole Ubalde.
Even with Nigerian forward Rich Managor sitting on the sidelines after fouling out, USPF still brought the deficit down seven, 68-75, with 2:55 to go.
But USJ-R was unfazed sealed the win with a layup off a strong drive along the baseline from Dinolan and pull-up jumpers from Mantilla and Elmer Echavez that gave them an 81-68 lead with 1:25 to go.
Mantilla continued his bid for a second straight MVP award with 26 points, seven rebounds, and seven assists.
Elmer Echavez and Ewenike had 13 points each, the latter adding 13 rebounds, four steals and six blocked shots.
Ubalde chipped in 10 markers and eight boards.
Managor led USPF with 24 points and 15 rebounds.
The Panthers, however, just could not sustain their momentum from the first round as they finished the second with just one win against five losses.
USJ-R (84) Mantilla 26, Ewenike 13, Echavez 13, Ubalde 10, Gastador 9, Peromingan 8, Dinolan 5
USPF (73) Managor 24, Sarahina 11, Langahin 8, Cauba 8, Archival 7, Cada 5, Mendez 4, Cuyos 2, Quiachon 2, Villarta 2
Quarterscores: 16-18, 39-30, 64-54, 84-73