CEBU CITY – The University of Cebu Webmasters pulled off a stunning 85-77 upset of the defending champions University of the Visayas Green Lancers in Game One of the17th Cesafi men’s basketball finals on Wednesday at the Cebu Coliseum.
The Webmasters surged to a 16-point lead in the first half and staved off a huge comeback attempt by the Green Lancers in the game’s waning moments to take a 1-0 lead in this best-of-three series.
UC can end a five-year title drought with a victory on Friday in the same venue.
Cameroonian sensation Frederick Elombi led the Webmasters with 23 points, 12 rebounds, five assists and three blocked shots while John Jabello added 16 markers and five assists even as off guard Joven Tagudin contributed 14 points.
Lead guard Justine Dacalos nearly had a triple double with nine points, 11 rebounds and seven assists while rarely-used forward Ruben Ludovice provided a spark off the bench with eight points and five rebounds.
The Webmasters put the Green Lancers on the back foot early and led 24-20 after the first before a 13-1 run capped by a Tagudin triple shoved them in front by 16, 37-21.
But the Green Lancers slowly chipped away at UC’s lead, pulling to within one, 67-68, after a 9-2 run.
However, the Webmasters refused to back down and attacked the rim with reckless abandon, with Elombi and Jabello scoring on consecutives drives before JR Puerto aced a putback in transition to bring UC’s lead back to seven, 74-67, with 2:52 left.
UV scored the next four points to pull to within three, 71-74, but UC responded with an Elombi jumper, two free throws by Dacalos, a transition layup by Jabello and a free-throw by Elombi to extend the lead to 10, 81-71, and seal the win with 56.3 seconds to go.
Afterwards, a relieved UC head coach Yayoy Alcoseba credited his team for peaking at the right time.
“They’ve shown massive improvements as the season went on and they are peaking here in the finals,” said the veteran mentor tasked with bringing UC back to the Promised Land after a six-year stint with Southwestern University-Phinma.
MVP contender Jerome Napao led UV with 16 points and 13 rebounds, reigning league MVP Rey Suerte had just 12, Jayson Balabag tallied 11 while Tristan Albina pumped in 10 for the Green Lancers, which saw their 12-game winning streak end with the loss.
UC (85) Elombi 23, Jabello 16, Tagudin 14, Dacalos 9, Ludovice 8, Puerto 8, Gonzaga 5, Codilla 2
UV (77) Napao 16, Suerte 12, Balabag 11, Albina 10, Sackor 8, Soliva 8, Gahi 8, Segumpan 4
Quarterscores: 24-20; 45-33; 61-54; 85-77