CEBU CITY – Justine Dacalos sank a three-pointer with a second left to send the game to overtime before the University of Cebu Webmasters took over late to beat the University of San Jose-Recoletos Jaguars, 80-75, and march on to the finals of the 17th Cesafi men’s basketball tournament on Saturday at the Cebu Coliseum.
In a race between two squads raring to make it back to the championship round after extended absences, the Jaguars nearly made it as they led 71-66 with just 36.2 seconds left after two free-throws by veteran center Nelvin Navarra.
However, the Webmasters pushed late, closing in with two free-throws by Frederick Elombi before Dacalos – after USJ-R’s Julius Pacanuayan missed two free-throws on the previous possession – knotted the count at 71-all with a booming straightaway three-pointer with 1.7 seconds left, to send the game to the extra session.
The Jaguars regained their composure to grab the driver’s seat, 75-74, after two more free throws by Navarra. But that proved to be their last hurrah as Joren Tagudin and John Jabello sank four straight free throws to shove UC in front, 78-75, with 16.6 seconds on the clock.
The Jaguars’ last chance at tying the game produced zilch as Braulio Compra’s three-point attempt from the corner got blocked and Tricky Peromingan’s attempt to save the possession instead handed the ball to Dacalos, who later swished two from the charity stripe to seal the incredible comeback win for UC.
This marks UC’s first finals appearance since 2011, when current San Miguel Beermen June Mar Fajardo and Brian Heruela, who was in attendance game, led the Webmasters to their second straight title. Also at the venue to cheer UC on was one of its most distinguished alumnus Dondon Hontiveros.
Waiting for them in the best-of-three finals are none other than the reigning champions, University of the Visayas.
Wily forward JR Puerto continued his sizzling offensive display for the Webmasters with 22 points on 11-of-14 shooting on top of 13 rebounds and four assists. Elombi had a rough outing but still managed a double-double of 17 points and 10 boards. The Cameroonian however, turned the ball over 10 times.
Jabello and Dacalos chipped in 14 and 12 points, respectively.
The loss was a bitter end to the championship hopes of USJ-R, who held a twice-to-beat advantage in this round. RJ Dinolan and Peromingan scored 15 each to pace USJ-R. But the Jaguars could not overcome another subpar outing from lead guard Jaybie Mantilla who was held down to just five points on 2-of-9 shooting.
UC (80) Puerto 22, Elombi 17, Jabello 14, Dacalos 12, Gonzaga 5, Tagudin 4, Ludovice 4, Olmilla 2
USJ-R (75) Peromingan 15, Dinolan 15, Navarra 10, Ubalde 7, Catiloc 6, Gastador 6, Mantilla 5, Pacanuayan 4, Compra 4, Cabrera 3
Quarterscores: 13-16; 35-40; 55-55; 71-71; 80-75