CEBU – Southwestern University sent the 12th Cebu Schools Athletic Foundation Inc. (Cesafi) title series to a deciding Game Five following a 68-64 win over University of the Visayas on Wednesday night before a rowdy crowd at the Cebu Coliseum.
Cameroonian Ben Mbala and Bernie Bregondo made the crucial baskets in the stretch run of Game Four and prevented another big-time collapse by the Cobras.
Now, Cebu college basketball’s longtime rivals go at each other one more time in a winner-take-all showdown.
But there appears to be some controversy on the staging of Game Five, originally set to be played on Thursday. Tournament official Danny Duran decided to move to Saturday, a decision that doesn’t sit well with Congressman and UV president Eddie Gullas.
“UV objects to the postponement of the game. The schedule was arranged before the start of the championship round. The UV Lancers will be at the Cebu Coliseum, ready to play tomorrow (Thursday) as scheduled. We understand that two of SWU’s players are injured, but that’s part of the game,” said Guillas in a statement made shortly after the game.
For the third straight game in the best-of-five series, the Cobras lost grip of a double-digit lead and trailed, 62-64, with 2:07 remaining.
Mbala however, injected life into the team’s sagging bid, by calmly sinking two free throws to tie the game at 64.
Then Bregondo scored the go-ahead lay-up in the Cobras’ next possession, 66-64, with 29.4 seconds left.
Coming off a timeout, the Lancers failed to make a basket as Eman Calo’s three-point attempt was short. Monbert Arong then sealed the win for SWU by draining two free throws in the final 6.8 seconds.
Mbala led all scorers with 23 points, 12 rebounds, and five block shots as he atoned for his sub-par performances in the last two games.
Rookie of the Year and MVP winner Wowie Escosio paced the Lancers with 17 points, while Calo added 13.
The Cobras enjoyed as much as a 14-point lead and were still ahead 58-47 heading into the final quarter as Mbala and Bregondo instigated a 10-0 blast.
But the Lancers rallied behind a 15-2 run, capped by four free throws by Mythical Five member Jerome Silva to suddenly wrest the upperhand.