CEBU CITY – The last time the University of the Visayas Green Lancers and the University of San Jose-Recoletos Jaguars clashed in the Cesafi men’s basketball tournament finals was a certified hit.
With students and alumni alike filling the Cebu Coliseum to the rafters, the 2008 Cesafi finals bore a festive atmosphere that has not been seen in recent years here in Cebu.
And although the Green Lancers won that match-up, 3-1 for what was then their eighth straight championship, protagonists from both sides hold nothing but fond memories of that fierce showdown.
Current Barangay Ginebra big man, Greg Slaughter, shared that hearing of the upcoming championship clash between UV and USJ-R brought back lots of memories for him.
“I remember what a tough squad they had. USJ-R was always tough but that year they were elite when they got (Luther) Justiniani and (Lyndon) Gudez on top of the stars they already had,” said Slaughter, then playing in his second year for the Green Lancers.
“I believe it was my bro Von (Lanete’s) last year too so it was special that we got to end it with a championship,” shared the gentle giant.
UV raced off to a 2-0 lead in the best-of-five series after winning Game 1, 86-74 and Game 2, 71-61. Game Three however, was a different story as USJ-R blew UV out by a whopping 33 points, 86-53.
“They really kicked our behinds in Game Three. (Armand) Ponce was doing up and under lay-ups on me,” said Slaughter with a laugh.
Justiniani, a member of the Mythical Five that season, woke up from his struggles in the first two games and scored 25 points in Game Three where they led by as many as 38 points.
“We were confident that we could get that championship because of our chemistry. On my part, I struggled in Games 1 and 2 because of the defensive adjustments that UV made. I adjusted in Game 3, that’s why I was able to contribute but we collapsed in Game 4,” shared Justiniani, who now works at a swanky resort on Mactan Island.
The end of the series came in Game 4 which UV won, 73-68, with Slaughter coming up with 16 points and 19 rebounds. Current Cebu City Sharks guard Harold Cincoflores, who was then a rookie, broke out for 16 points in that deciding match, six coming in the crucial fourth canto that gave the Green Lancers enough separation to hack out the win.
Justiniani also had some words of advice for this batch of Jaguars as they seek to dethrone the mighty Green Lancers, who are seeking a rare “three-peat.” Game 1 of the best-of-three Cesafi finals tips off on Thursday evening.
“I hope and pray that this time they will get the championship trophy. They just have to believe and not be overconfident as well. They should remain focused and listen to the instructions of the coaches,” he added.