CEBU – University of the Visayas and Southwestern University go at each other for one last time as they dispute the 12th Cebu Schools Athletic Foundation Inc. (Cesafi) championship on Saturday before an expected overflow crowd at the Cebu Coliseum.
The Finals boiled down to a deciding Game Five after the Cobras regrouped and tied the series with a hard-earned 68-64 win the last time.
But Southwestern will be hard-pressed to repeat over UV as Cameroonian Ben Mbala is a doubtful starter for the Cobras after suffering a strained ligament in his knee during Game Four.
Cobras coach Raul `Yayoy’ Alcoseba disclosed the news to Spin.ph late Thursday evening after the 6-foot-8 banger had undergone MRI and remained in the hospital for further tests.
The Southwestern mentor, however, remained upbeat about his team’s shot at winning its first ever Cesafi title since returning to the league five years ago.
The Cobras have been title-less since ruling the final season of the defunct Cebu Amateur Athletic Association (CAAA) in 2000.
“I’m very confident that we will win the championship,” said Alcoseba. He said the Cobras’ recipes for success are “big heart, lots of luck, and prayers.”
The Lancers are just as confident as they try to regain the title that had eluded them after losing in the Finals for two straight years.
Prior to the back-to-back championship losses, the Lancers had won the first nine titles in the league.
“We’re all ready,” said UV coach Felix `Donbel’ Belano.
For the Lancers to win, the former PBA point guard plans to give Cameroonian Steve Akomo and Rookie of the Year-MVP Wowie Escosio more touches, while looking to deny the Cobras their bread-and-butter pick-and-roll plays.
Meanwhile, commissioner Felix Tiukinhoy called on both teams to play the game hard but in the spirit of sportsmanship.
“I hope both teams will play heads-up basketball in the spirit of true sportsmanship,” he said in a text message.
Tiukinhoy came under fire from UV president and Congressman Eddie Gullas shortly after he decided to move Game Five from its original schedule on Thursday to Saturday.
The decision was made as the Cebu Coliseum wasn’t available on that day.
But playing the decisive match a day after Game Four could have worked to the Lancers' advantage as some of the SWU players, Mbala in particular, were reportedly hurting.
“We’re playing with a heavy heart. Our heart is heavy because we feel the decision to reschedule the championship (Game 5) was arbitrary, and the basis lame, to say the least,” said Guillas in his letter to the commissioner.
“As can be seen clearly in the attached original schedule, a Game Five, if necessary, is to be played on October 4.”
But Tiukinhoy said the decision to reschedule the game is a prerogative of the commissioner and with the clear backing of the Board of Trustees.
“If ever there is any malicious intent on our part, then we shouldn’t stay a minute longer in our positions. Nobody can accuse us of giving preference to one team,” said Tiukinhoy in defending his decision.
It took a 22-3 votes among players, coaches, and school officials of UV for the team to be persuaded to play the championship game.