CEBU CITY – The Southwestern University-Phinma Baby Cobras are headed to Manila to represent Cebu in the SM-National Basketball Training Center League National Basketball Championships after they defeated the University of San Jose-Recoletos Baby Jaguars in the Cebu Division 1 finals, 87-85, on Sunday afternoon at the packed Minglanilla Sports Complex.
Harvey Kent Sanchez gave the Baby Cobras of head coach Jerry Abuyabor the come-from-behind victory with his timely shotmaking. With the game tied at 85-all and time running out, the left-handed Sanchez navigated his way off a pick from outside the arc, juked right before rising up and making a midrange jumper to give SWU-Phinma an 87-85 lead.
USJ-R was able to get the ball down the floor and fire a three-pointer from the corner that missed as the final buzzer sounded to give SWU-Phinma the victory, which places them back on the national stage for the first time in 25 years.
Sanchez finished the game with 29 points and was named the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player.
Speedy guard Kendall Limana also had 19 markers for the Baby Cobras while big man King Cabansay also notched 15.
The win was made doubly impressive as it the Baby Cobras’ second comeback from a double-digit deficit in as many games. They trailed 36-46, at halftime but turned things around in the third where they outscored the Baby Jaguars, 27-16.
Elmer Echavez led the Baby Jaguars with 29 while Daniel Rodriguez and Matthew Paras pitched in 19 and 12 markers, respectively.
The title completed SWU-Phinma’s Cinderella-like run through this tournament, which for the first time in recent memory, will not have either the University of the Visayas or Ateneo de Cebu representing Cebu.
SWU-Phinma upended Ateneo de Cebu in the semis in overtime, 88-78, last Saturday to punch their ticket to the finals. Sanchez drilled in 23 points to lead the way for the Baby Cobras in that game.
USJ-R on the other hand, beat Don Bosco, 55-47, to advance to the finals.
The SM-NBTC National Basketball Championships will be on March 18-24 at the Mall of Asia Arena.