CEBU CITY – University of the Visayas uncorked a 15-2 run down the stretch to frustrate University of San Jose-Recoletos, 74-61, in the deciding Game Three of the 2018 Cesafi men’s basketball finals on Monday night at the packed Cebu Coliseum.
In a game of peaks and valleys, it was the Green Lancers who came out on top in the end to complete a rare Cesafi three-peat and wrap up their 13th overall, solidifying their status as the most dominant collegiate team in the south.
“I have always had faith in my players, which is why I believed when players like Ted Saga and Jim Paul Amistoso were placed in,” said UV head coach Gary Cortes, who served his one-game suspension but watched the game from the bleachers.
“I have to give it up to the players. They kept at it when we didn’t start well and still got the championship,” added Cortes.
With the game tied at 59-all after USJ-R rallied from a 13-point deficit, UV remained composed with rookie standout Jafet Claridad reprising his Game One heroics by splashing a three-pointer.
After a free-throw by Bassiere Sackor, Claridad made USJ-R pay again with another triple from the opposite side before Sackor sank a layup off a great pass from Gileant Delator for a 68-59 lead.
Adding to USJ-R’s woes was the fifth and final foul of star guard Jaybie Mantilla with 5:34 to go.
After Nichole Ubalde scored to momentarily stop the bleeding for the Jaguars, Rey Anthony Suerte iced the win with a short jumper before soaring for a lay-up over USJ-R’s Nigerian big man Segamars Ewenike for a 73-61 lead with 1:07 to go.
Suerte finished with 16 points, eight rebounds, three assists and three steals to win the league’s MVP award for the second time in the last three seasons. Claridad, UV’s recruit from Bacolod, added 15 behind four three-pointers.
Sackor, who missed most of the second half with four fouls, had 14 points and 14 boards while Jancork Cabahug was also effective, scoring 11 points and grabbing eight rebounds.
The loss was a crushing blow for the Jaguars, who were trying to end a 25-year title drought.
Fletcher Galvez, Ewenike and Ubalde each had 12 points for a USJ-R squad that misfired all game, finishing with a 33 percent shooting clip. Worse, the Jaguars missed 15 of their 21 attempts from the line.
Mantilla, playing in his final Cesafi game before moving on to the Cebu City Sharks, was also held to 4-of-12 shooting, for just 11 points.