CEBU CITY – University of San Jose-Recoletos finished third place in the 15th Cesafi men’s basketball tournament after eking out a 77-74 win over deposed champion Southwestern University Sunday night at the Cebu Coliseum here.
In so doing, the Jaguars earned a spot in the Visayas qualifiers of the Philippine Collegiate Champions League (PCCL).
The Cesafi champion gets outright berth in the PCCL Elite Eight, while the second and third placers get to duke it out against other regional squads in the Visayas finals to be held in Ormoc.
Athletic forward RJ Dinolan led the Jaguars with a near double-double of 20 points and nine rebounds, but it was wily rookie Jaybie Mantilla who made the big difference as he scored a three-pointer with 1:25 left that put USJ-R in front for good.
Kevin Villafranca added 19 points, while Mantilla contributed 14. Miguel Gastador chipped in 10, including half in a 10-0 blast at the onset of the fourth that gave the Jaguars a 67-60 lead.
The Cobras fought back behind two straight triples from Jan Auditor and two from the charity stripe by Mac Tallo to give them back the lead, 73-72 with 1:47 to go.
But Mantilla sized up Auditor on the left wing before rising up and swishing in a booming three-pointer that put USJ-R back in the driver’s seat, 75-73.
Mantilla however, nearly turned hero to goat as he was called for a foul on Jun Luz while attempting from beyond the arc. Much to the Jaguars’ relief, Luz went one-of-three from the stripe to pull the Cobras to within one in the final 59 seconds.
Dinolan then made up for two huge misses from the charity stripe by making two with 17.4 seconds in what proved to be the marginal baskets as Tallo missed a desperation three-point attempt at the buzzer that clinched the win for the Jaguars.
Auditor, playing in his final game in what has been a fruitful collegiate career, scored 19 points while Tallo finished with 16, 11 rebounds and five assists. Juju Bautista added 14 before getting sidelined after suffering a large gash on his finger late in the third.
USJ-R (77) -- Dinolan 20, Villafranca 19, Mantilla 14, Gastador 10, Labares 8, Senining 3, Bayhonan 2, Risma 1, Peromingan 0, Navarra 0.
SWU (74) -- Auditor 19, Tallo 16, Bautista 14, Racho 11, Holper 6, Luz 5, Pardo 3.
Quarterscores: 18-23; 39-41; 57-58; 77-74.