CEBU CITY – University of San Jose-Recoletos moved ahead in the frantic race for the last semifinals berth in the 15th Cebu Schools Athletic Foundation Inc. (Cesafi) after outlasting reigning champion Southwestern University in overtime, 68-63, Sunday at the Cebu Coliseum.
Kevin Villafranca and Macmac Labares helped the Jaguars finish strong with some clutch baskets down the stretch to pull off their fourth win in nine outings.
Significantly, USJ-R is now in fourth place, half-a-game ahead of Cebu Institute of Technology-University which holds a 4-6 slate.
After a sluggish start, Villafranca, a Mythical Five team member last season, scored 19 points including a lay-in and a nifty scoop shot that capped a 9-0 run which put USJ-R in front for good.
Rookie Miguel Gastador provided a huge lift off the bench with 17 points, seven boards, and two blocked shots, while another newcomer in Jaybie Mantilla, chipped in 10.
SWU’s John Lloyd Luz sent the game into overtime with a huge three-pointer, 56-all.
Luz drew first blood for the Cobras in the extra period as he nailed another three for a 59-56 lead.
But the Jaguars rallied behind Villafranca, who sprung free on the inbounds play and canned an easy lay-in.
After three free-throws from Ricky Peromingan and Mantilla, Labares rattled in a step-back jumper, which Villafranca followed up with the scoop shot to put the Jaguars in the driver’s seat, 65-59, with 1:28 remaining.
Two-time league MVP Mac Tallo tried to rally the Cobras with a transition lay-in and two free-throws to cut the deficit to 63-65 with 15 seconds to go but Mantilla kept them at bay by going one-of-two from the line.
The Cobras still had a shot to tie the game but Luz missed a three-point try that led to game-sealing free-throws by Peromingan.
Tallo led SWU (7-3) with 21 points, six rebounds, and seven assists, while Juju Bautista and Luz had a dozen each.
The Cobras actually paraded a seven-man lineup as veteran wingman Janjan Auditor sat the game due to an ankle injury.
USJ-R (68) -- Villafranca 19, Gastador 17, Mantilla 10, Dinolan 7, Peromingan 7, Labares 6, Navarra 2, Senining 0, Bayhonan 0, Risma 0, Moral 0.
SWU (63) -- Tallo 21, Bautista 12, Luz 12, Racho 9, Holper 5, Gonzaga 2, Pardo 0, Clam 0.
Quarterscores: 13-10; 26-26; 42-40; 56-56 (reg); 68-63.