CEBU CITY – Reigning champion University of Cebu pulled off another escape act as it squeaked past University of San Carlos, 77-76, in their quarterfinal showdown in the 12th Cebu Schools Athletic Foundation Inc. (Cesafi) men’s basketball tournament on Monday at the Cebu Coliseum.
Donning the hero’s cape again for the Webmasters was `Lone Star’ Brian Heruela, who finished with 29 points, including the game-winning free throw in the final 3.6 seconds.
The UC star also added 11 rebounds and two assists as the win propelled the defending champions to the semifinals.
The victory likewise broke the Warriors’ streak of eight straight appearances in the Final Four.
Also advancing to the semis was Southwestern University after its rout of Cebu Institute of Technology-University, 91-70.
But the win came at a high cost for the Cobras as rookie star forward Ben Mbala hyperextended his knee in the fourth period, and had to be carried out of the floor.
Mbala is listed as day-to-day, according to team therapist Pio Solon.
The Cobras’ prized rookie topscored with 17 points to go with eight rebounds and five block shots.
Southwestern carried out a punishing 21-1 blast bridging the first and second periods for a commanding 38-18 lead. Cameroonian Justin Aboude accounted for half of the Cobras’ output during that searing run.
Aboude finished with a career-high 23 points, with eight boards, two assists and a steal. Reserve wingman Mervin Dedace also had a breakout game with 16 points.
The Webmasters appeared cruising to an easy win after a three-pointer by Gil Wagas with 6:17 left gave them a 72-59 lead.
But the Warriors still had one last fight left in them, rallying with a 13-2 blast capped by a Mike Cantonao driving layup that tied the game at 74-74 with still 1:35 left in the match.
Two free throws by Heruela gave the lead back to the Webmasters, before Charles Pepito tied it anew at 76 behind an undergoal stab off a great drop pass by Cantonao.
Still, it was the reigning champions who had the last laugh. Heruela was isolated on the left side of the floor and drove aggressively, getting a blocking foul from Stephen Que that led to his game-winning foul shot.