USPF Panthers claim scalp of SWU Cobras to revive Cesafi Final Four hopes
Edwin Villarta and the USPF Panthers ended the first round with a stunning win over SWU-Phinma. Ron Tolin

CEBU CITY – The University of Southern Philippines Foundation Panthers started off strong and authored an even better finish to stun the Southwestern University-Phinma Cobras, 80-71, in the 17th Cesafi men’s basketball tournament at the New Cebu Coliseum.

Crafty scorer Lyndon Colina led the way for the hard-fighting Panthers with 18 points, four rebounds and two assists while power forward Edwin Villarta put up great numbers across the board with 13 markers, seven rebounds, three assists, two steals and a block.

More importantly, the win – their second in six games – kept USPF’s flickering hopes for a Final Four spot alive, now just a game and a half behind the University of Cebu Webmasters for fourth spot.

The Panthers struck first, draining four three-pointers in a four-minute span to lurch in front, 14-4, before closing the first with a 25-11 lead.

With their pressure defense befuddling SWU’s ballhandlers and their offense clicking on all cylinders, the lead eventually reached 20, 31-11, as Villarta banked in a triple from the top of the arc while Mark Tenebroso had an and-one with 9:07 left in the half.

But the proud Cobras responded later in the third with a 17-4 run behind the playmaking of John Lloyd Luz, who scored nine during that rally to bring them to within 47-54.

However, the Panthers did not flinch and pushed the lead back to 13, 74-61, after a shot clock-beating triple by Mike Patalinghug and two free-throws from RR Cauba.

The Cobras scored six straight to trim the deficit down to seven, 67-74, with 2:32 remaining, but the Panthers put the game away with back-to-back putbacks by RR Cauba with under a minute remaining.

Luz paced the Cobras with 15 points and five assists while Daryl Nazareno and Edmundo Bayhonan chipped in 13 each. The Cobras have now lost three straight and now own the second worst record in the league at 1-5.

The scores:

USPF (80) Colina 18, Villarta 13, Patalinghug 9, Quiachon 9, Cauba 8, Cuyos 7, Mangyao 4, Tenebroso 4, Cada 3, Batac 3, Meca 2

SWU-Phinma (71) Luz 15, Bayhonan 13, Nazareno 13, Polican 8, Fernandez 6, Molina 5, Racho 4, delos Santos 3, Roncal 2, Bilao 2

Quarterscores: 25-11, 46-30, 62-53, 80-71

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