Macmac Tallo leads SWU Cobras fightback from 19-points down against USC Warriors
Macmac Tallo scored 12 of his 26 points for SWU at crunch time. Ron Tolin

CEBU CITY – With this season being his last, Macmac Tallo is dead set on making it an unforgettable one.

Tallo scored 12 of his 26 points at crunch time to help the Southwestern University-Phinma Cobras erase a 19-point deficit against the defending champions University of San Carlos Warriors, 68-65, at the start of the semifinals of the 16th Cesafi men’s basketball tournament on Saturday night at the Cebu Coliseum.

Tallo, a two-time MVP who is setting his eyes on a stint in the PBA D-League after this season, fueled the Cobras’ comeback by scoring 12 in a 22-0 blast that turned a 43-62 deficit into a 65-62 lead.

The 6-foot-1 combo guard also put the finishing touches on the come-from-behind win by assisting on a triple by John Lloyd Luz that gave them a 68-63 lead with 24.4 seconds remaining.

Luz, the former Far Eastern University guard, added 14 points, four rebounds and four assists while veteran forward Ian Ortega came off the bench and chipped in 12.

Things appeared bleak for the Cobras, which came into the game with a 12-game winning streak, as they trailed 43-62 after USC’s Kevin Oleodo opened the fourth with a triple.

But Tallo kept on coming and resuscitated SWU’s attack with a three-point play, a soaring lay-up over the outstretched arms of USC’s 6-foot-9 forward Scotty Ntumba and a leaning jumper that trimmed the deficit to eight, 54-62.

Several possessions later, with the shot clock winding down, Tallo found himself open at the top of the rainbow arc and swished in a three to pull the Cobras within a point, 61-62, with 1:46 on the clock.

After tying the game with a free-throw off an unsportsmanlike foul call Ntumba, former Adamson guard William Polican was left all alone at the left wing and calmly rattled home another triple to finally get SWU in front, 65-62.

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After Oleodo split his charities to pull USC to 63-65, Tallo was able to get the rock to an open Luz in the corner who dropped in another triple to extend SWU’s lead to five, 68-63.

USC actually still had a shot at tying the game after wingman Ian Tagapan made two free throws and SWU’s Ortega missed two with 2.8 left on the clock. But Tagapan misfired on a three as time expired.

It was a sorry loss for USC, which got off to a fast 21-6 start and led for all but one minute of the game. Lefty guard Bryan Divinagracia led the Warriors with 15 while Oleodo had 12.

The scores:

SWU-Phinma Cobras (68) - Tallo 26, Luz 14, Ortega 12, Bravo 6, Nzuzi 5, Polican 4, Bregondo 2, Imperial 2.

USC Warriors (65) - Divinagracia 15, Oleodo 12, Ntumba 9, Munez 7, Rabat 6, Catapusan 5, Tagapan 4, Ecarma 2, Tan 2. 

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