USC Warriors prove steadier in wild finish to avert UV Green Lancers sweep of Cesafi Finals
Gio Laguyo came up clutch for the USC Warriors in foiling the UV Green Lancers' sweep bid in the Cesafi finals. Ron Tolin

CEBU CITY - The University of San Carlos Warriors lived to fight another day as they nipped the University of the Visayas Green Lancers, 56-52, in a thrilling Game Three of the best-of-five championship series in the 16th Cesafi men’s basketball tournament on Thursday at the Cebu Coliseum. 

The defending champions got huge plays from guard Gio Laguyo, who tied the game at 52-all with a floater over the outstretched arms of UV forward Bassiere Sackor, and rookie Conrad Catapusan, who coolly canned the go-ahead lay-up that came off a great outlet pass from Laguyo, with 10.4 seconds left in the game.

Laguyo, who several plays before had to be taken to the sidelines after hurting a bum shoulder while going through a hard pick, also held his ground on defense and drew an offensive foul on Lancers guard Alfred Codilla and afterwards sealed the victory with two pressure-packed free-throws with 3.4 ticks remaining.

“Adrenaline lang talaga. It hurt afterwards but I didn’t feel anything at the time. Coach called for a pick for me and I saw an open lane. I saw Sackor coming so I had to throw up that floater. Buti na lang pumasok,” described Laguyo of the crucial game-tying play.

Victor Rabat was the lone double-figure scorer for USC with 12 points while Laguyo finished with eight. Malcolm Tan, Ian Tagapan and Catapusan had seven apiece as Warriors coach Rommel Rasmo  came away pleased with his wards pulling off the victory in the intensely fought match.

“The players really wanted it. I just told them to stay in the moment, keep their calm and to stay together. I am very happy that they delivered,” said the jubilant Rasmo after the match.

UV was ready to celebrate as they led by three, 52-49, after a short jumper by Monic Soliva, 1:34 to go. But Rabat trimmed the deficit to one by splitting his charities, and, after a travelling violation call on Sackour, USC went to Laguyo who shed his defender off a solid pick by big man Scotty Ntumba and went straight to the rack before dropping in the game-tying floater.

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On ensuing play, the Lancers had a shot at regaining the lead but Ntumba stepped up and swatted away Rey Suerte’s lay-up attempt and issued an outlet pass to Laguyo, who then forwarded it to a streaking Catapusan for the go-ahead bucket, 54-52.

With no timeouts remaining, UV handed the rock to Codilla who sprinted upcourt and got called for an offensive foul as he pushed away a hard-defending Laguyo with time running down.

The loss not only spoiled UV’s bid for a sweep  of the series but also wasted away Sackor’s incredible 11-point, 18-rebound effort. Soliva added yet another double-double with 10 points and 10 boards.

UV still leads the series, 2-1, with Game Four set on Saturday at 5:30 in the afternoon.

The scores:

USC (56) Rabat 12, Laguyo 8, Tan 7, Tagapan 7, Catapusan 7, Oleodo 6, Ntumba 4, Adlawan 2, Munez 1

UV (52) Sackor 11, Soliva 10, Suerte 9, Codilla 8, Segumpan 7, Napao 5, Gahi 2

Quarterscores: 13-11, 22-24, 39-36, 56-52

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