USJ-R Jaguars catch fire from deep late to squeak past SWU Cobras in Cesafi
Miguel Gastador squeezes through an open lane. Ron Tolin

CEBU CITY – The University of San Jose-Recoletos (USJ-R) Jaguars marched closer to locking up a twice-to-beat advantage in the Final Four after they nipped the Southwestern University (SWU)-Phinma Cobras, 83-77, in the 17th Cesafi men’s basketball tournament on Thursday night at the Cebu Coliseum. 

The Jaguars were down 12 early but took over with just two minutes remaining, thanks to a barrage of three-pointers from reserves Miguel Gastador and little-used Braulio Compra, to nab their seventh win in nine matches. 

The loss sent the Cobras to the edge of elimination with their sixth loss against three wins, pushing them further away from the fourth-ranked University of Cebu, which owns the last ticket to the semifinal stage at 5-4 (win-loss).

Gastador, USJ-R’s high-leaping wingman whose minutes have dwindled after a breakout year last season, stepped up to tally 17 points and six rebounds. Another reserve, RJ Dinolan, finished with a double-double of 14 points and 15 rebounds along with three assists and three steals.

Compra, a non-factor for most of the season, impressed as he scored in double-figures for the second straight game with 10.

USJ-R’s main man Jaybie Mantilla was held down to just seven points on 1-of-11 shooting but made up for it with 11 rebounds and seven assists.

The Cobras led 32-20 at the midway point of the second but the Jaguars caught up and grabbed the driver’s seat, 57-56, at the end of the third. With just two minutes to go, Gastador shoved the Jaguars in front for good, 76-73, with a triple from the left corner. 

After two made free-throws by Cobras forward Edmundo Bayhonan narrowed the gap to one, Compra nailed the last of his three three-pointers in the fourth, from the very same corner to raise the Jaguars’ lead to four, 79-75, 1:29 left.

The Cobras had several chances to come even closer but could not capitalize as the Jaguars beat them to every looseball. USJ-R outrebounded SWU-Phinma, 57-35, 27 of the offensive variety. 

Mantilla and Compra then sealed the win with four makes from the charity stripe in the dying seconds.

The Scores:

USJ-R (83) Gastador 17, Dinolan 14, Compra 10, Ubalde 8, Catiloc 8, Peromingan 7, Mantilla 7, Pacanuayan 6, Navarra 4, Nunez 2 

SWU-Phinma (77) Nazareno 12, Imperial 12, Polican 10, Ugsang R. 9, Bayhonan 8, Racho 8, Bilao 6, Luz 6, Fernandez 4, Ugsang Z. 2

Quarterscores: 14-15, 34-38, 57-56, 83-77

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