CEBU CITY – University of San Carlos guns for a first ever Cebu Schools Athletic Federation Inc. (Cesafi) title in school history but is bracing for an all-out assault from the University of the Visayas when the two teams clash anew in Game Four of the finals Saturday at the Cebu Coliseum.
The Warriors moved on the brink of a breakthrough title 15 years into the league after upending the Green Lancers, 87-76, in Game Three on Thursday for a 2-1series lead in the best-of-five series.
But USC head coach Britt Reroma keeps reminding his team the Green Lancers won’t be easy preys.
“We must be ready mentally for a different UV team that will play with a sense of urgency,” said the former mentor of the San Beda Red Cubs.
UV is no stranger to overcoming the odds.
Down 2-0 against Southwestern University during the 2012 title series when the Cobras were unbeaten in 12 games, the Lancers gathered their resolve and completed the mother of all comebacks behind with a thrilling 64-62 win in the deciding Game Five.
Reroma though said the Warriors’ chances of closing out the series starts and ends with maintaining their composure right from the get-go.
“We just really go back to maintaining our mental toughness. We keep on reminding them to stay focus and play together as a team, not as individuals. If we do that, consistency will be there for us on both ends in Game Four,” added Reroma, who celebrated his birthday on the eve of Game Four.
Their season and bid for an 11th league title hanging in the balance, UV head coach Gary Cortes said the Lancers’ coaching staff must find ways to bring back harmony to an offense that resembled night and day the last time.
After riding the hot hands of spitfire guard Jun Manzo, who scored 21 in the first 20 minutes of the match to turn the tables on the Warriors, Cortes noticed the Lancers inexplicably started playing one-on-one and forced up their shots instead of running the offense.
Manzo likewise failed to sustain his rhythm and managed just four the rest of the way to end up with 25.
“We suddenly weren’t executing our plays properly because some players wanted to go one on one and forcing their shots. Players were grumbling about getting the ball,” shared Cortes, a former UV player who made a name for himself as a tough defender.
UV did not put up much of a defensive stand especially with 6-foot-10 center Steve Akomo riding the pine for most of the second half after incurring his fourth foul in the third period, before eventually fouling out with six minutes left in the game.
Akomo’s exit spelled disaster for the Green Lancers as USC forward Shooster Olago was quick to take advantage and pounced on the undersized UV frontline, scorching it for 27 second half points to finish with 32.
“I have to get Steve (Akomo) focused. He must understand that he needs to stay on the floor and to play his game if we are to have a chance at extending this series,” quipped Cortes.