CEBU CITY — Southwestern University-Phinma are just a win away from ending the three-year title reign of University of the Visayas after a 70-66 victory in Game 1 of the Cebu Schools Athletic Foundation Inc. (CESAFI) men’s basketball finals at the Cebu Coliseum.
The Cobras can end its own five-year championship drought with another win in Game 2 on Thursday, in the same venue.
SWU-Phinma banked on the clutch shotmaking of Senegalese forward Lamine Thiam and veteran wingman Shaquille Imperial to hold off the Green Lancers down the stretch.
Up by just one, 64-63, after UV’s star rookie Gabriel Cometa scored on a putback with 1:31 to go, Thiam calmly made his way to the keyhole and rose up for a midrange jumper to put SWU-Phinma up by three, 66-63, time down to just 1:22.
Imperial then swished a triple from the right wing to push the Cobras’ lead up to six, 69-63, with just 52 seconds to go.
UV stayed alive after Froiland Maglasang canned a triple seconds later. UV even had a chance to pull closer after Thiam got fouled and missed two free-throws. But SWU-Phinma point guard William Polican was quicker to the ball as he grabbed the offensive rebound and then, got fouled with just 9.2 seconds to go.
The point guard missed the first but canned the second to seal the victory for the Cobras.
Thiam led the way for SWU-Phinma with 16 points, 10 rebounds, four assists and four steals while Imperial had 14 markers, seven boards, three steals and three blocked shots.
Veteran banger Red Cachuela added 13 while Polican finished with 11 points.
Rookie Cometa led UV with 17 points while Sheldon Gahi tallied 12. Lass Coulibally, UV’s foreign big man from the Ivory Coast, had 10 markers.