UV Green Lancers pull away late to dethrone USC Warriors and claim Cesafi crown
The UV Green Lancers celebrate their 11th Cesafi title, the most in league history. Ron Tolin

CEBU CITY - The University of the Visayas (UV) Green Lancers gained sweet revenge on the University of San Carlos (USC) Warriors as they dethroned the defending champions with a 66-53 victory in Game Four to capture the championship in the 16th Cesafi men’s basketball tournament on Saturday at the Cebu Coliseum.

Foiled last year by this very same USC squad, UV kept that bitter moment and used it to fuel this drive towards their 11th league crown, the most in league history.

Down one, 42-43, the Green Lancers suddenly broke away with a 10-0 blast that bridged the third and fourth periods to pull in front, 52-43. They led by as much as 11 and kept their distance the rest of the way to earn the victory and close out the best-of-five series, 3-1.

“This is really sweet revenge for us. Doing it against the team that kept us from the championship last year, I can’t describe the feeling,” said an ecstatic Gary Cortes, who won his first Cesafi crown after taking over as head coach just last year.

Rey Suerte, nicknamed ‘The Flying Carpet’ here for his aerial artistry, led the Lancers in scoring with 14 points. The Davao-native was eventually named the league MVP aside from snagging a spot on the Mythical Five alongside his teammate Monic Soliva, Southwestern University-Phinma’s Macmac Tallo, the University of San Jose-Recoletos’ Jaybie Mantilla and USC’s Conrad Catapusan.

UV’s starting backcourt of Alfred Codilla and Josue Segumpan had 11 points each while the frontcourt of Soliva and Liberian forward Bassiere Sackor dominated the glass with a combined 27 rebounds.

The game’s defining moment, though, came late in the third. Faced against a USC squad that knew no quit, UV responded with the telling rally that was started by a baseline layup by Segumpan and was followed by long two-pointers by Codilla and Jayson Balabag.

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Reserve guard Sheldon Gahi then swished in two free-throws to put the Lancers in front, 50-43, at the end of three before Soliva started the fourth with a putback that gave them their first double-digit lead of the match, 52-42, with 9:09 remaining.

USC’s last gasp came off a triple by Kevin Oleodo that brought them to 53-61. But Sackour banked in a short jumper at the keyhole with 1:25 to go and Codilla later iced the win with three free-throws.

Ian Tagapan was the lone player from USC to reach double figures with 11. Victor Rabat, the team’s high-point man in their Game Three win, got into foul trouble early and finished scoreless as he missed all three of his attempts from the field.

The scores:

UV (66) Suerte 14, Codilla 11, Segumpan 11, Soliva 7, Gahi 6, Balabag 6, Sackor 4, Napao 2

USC (53) Tagapan 11, Oleodo 9, Ntumba 9, Laguyo 7,  Catapusan 7, Munez 3, Ecarma 3, Adlawan 2

Quarterscores: 18-18, 31-29, 50-43, 66-53. 

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