CEBU CITY – University of San Jose-Recoletos sent the 2018 Cesafi men’s basketball finals to a winner-take-all Game Three after taking down two-time champions University of the Visayas, 68-58, in Game Two on Saturday evening at the Cebu Coliseum.
Energetic forward Nichole John Ubalde sparked the Jaguars in the fourth period, scoring nine of his 18 points to keep UV at bay after the Green Lancers came battling back from the depths of a 19-point deficit.
Ubalde also had five rebounds, two assists and a steal as USJ-R evened the best-of-three finals at 1-1, keeping alive the Jaguars' bid for its first title in 25 years alive.
Game Three is set for Monday at 6 p.m.
Like Game 1, USJ-R got off to a fast start and led by 19, 26-7. However, UV regained its bearings and pulled to within 35-40 in the third after baskets by Rey Suerte and Michael Maestre.
UV’s momentum however, was stopped in its tracks with the ejection of head coach Gary Cortes, who got slapped with his second technical foul and was sent off with 2:20 to go.
USJ-R quickly took advantage and raised their lead to 47-38 heading to the fourth.
The drama continued right before the fourth canto as a USJ-R supported ran onto the floor and confronted deputy commissioner Danny Duran. Cortes also ran across the court to challenge the unnamed person.
It took all of 10 minutes for officials led by Commissioner Felix Tiukinhoy to sort things out before the game was allowed to continue.
In the fourth, UV trimmed the deficit to 53-57 after consecutive layups from Josue Segumpan and two free-throws by Jafet Claridad. But USJ-R answered with Segamars Ewenike making two free-throws and a putback, Fletcher Galvez lofting in a difficult floater and RJ Dinolan leaking out for a transition lay-in to give the Jaguars a 65-54 lead with 1:55 to go.
Reigning MVP Jaybie Mantilla bounced back with a double-double performance of 16 points and 11 rebounds along with four assists. The 6-foot-10 Ewenike was also an imposing presence inside, tallying 12 points and 18 rebounds to go with five blocked shots.
Rey Suerte led UV with 17 points but struggled mightily from the floor, making just seven of his 27 attempts. He also missed six of his eight free-throw attempts. Bassier Sackor, Jafet Claridad and Jancork Cabahug, after combining for 48 points in Game One, mustered only 24 in Game Two.