CEBU CITY – Two squads find themselves in unfamiliar territory as University of San Carlos guns for a finals berth and defending champion University of the Visayas tries to stay alive in the Cesafi men’s basketball tournament on Tuesday at the Cebu Coliseum.
The Warriors topped the elimination round with a 9-1 win-loss record and are a win away from making the finals for the first time since 2007.
On the other hand, the Green Lancers are on perilous ground and must overcome a twice-to-win disadvantage to keep their title defense alive. After claiming 10 championships in the last 13 years, the Lancers must now climb out of a hole that they themselves dug with inconsistent play and late-game collapses.
“I think with better composure down the stretch, I have high hopes maka-upset any of the three teams above us,” said UV team manager Gerald Anthony Gullas on Monday.
USC head coach Junthy Valenzuela remains wary of UV, an experienced squad led by veterans John Abad, Franz Arong, Chris Perolino, Alfred Codilla and Rhaffy Octobre.
“No doubt, they are very experienced in these kinds of games. They’ve been in this position before and they have shown how dangerous they can be when placed in these kinds of games. Look at what happened in last year’s finals,” said Valenzuela, referring to UV’s comeback from a 0-2 deficit in the finals against Southwestern University to hoist the crown.
With imports Shooster Olago and Espoir Toyambi leading the way, USC beat UV in both elimination round matches – 83-74 in overtime during the first round and 69-66 in the second round. Still, Valenzuela hopes to get more contributions from his locals to offset the loss of ace wingman Ian Ortega, out who is lost for the season because of a torn ACL.
In the juniors division, Cebu Institute of Technology-University takes on University of Cebu in the quarterfinals. The Wildkittens (5-3) will be armed with a twice-to-beat advantage after finishing the eliminations in fourth spot.
Already in the semifinals is unbeaten Sacred Heart School-Ateneo de Cebu after an eight-game sweep of the eliminations.