BITTER rivals Southwestern University and the University of the Visayas Green Lancers gained momentum heading to their much-anticipated match-up this weekend with victories over their respective opponents in the Cebu Schools Athletic Foundation Inc. (Cesafi) men’s basketball tournament at the Cebu Coliseum.
The defending champions SWU Cobras routed the Cebu Institute of Technology-University Wildcats, 91-63, while last year’s runners-up, the UV Green Lancers, held off the University of San Jose-Recoletos Jaguars, 91-80.
The two teams now share the lead in the standings with identical win-loss records of 2-0 heading to their first meeting of the season on Saturday.
Monbert Arong, a Mythical Five member last season, led the Cobras onslaught with 19 points, nine rebounds, three assists and six steals. 6-foot-11 import Fabrice Siewe added 15 while Mark Jayven Tallo chipped in 12 in limited minutes.
The team’s other reinforcement, Landry Sanjo, had just seven points but had 13 rebounds and three blocks.
SWU took full control of the game in the second period and never looked back, starting that stretch with a sizzling 14-4 run anchored on the heads-up play of their second stringers and Arong.
Siewe scored easily down low while Arong and Francis Ortega peppered the perimeter with jumpers for a 37-22 lead with 4:47 remaining in the first half. Tallo hit a three-pointer near the halftime buzzer for a 45-34 lead at the turn.
Floyd Taboada paced CIT-U with 23 points while rookie Joshua dela Cerna continued his strong play with 18 markers. However, the Wildcats fell to the bottom of the pack with their second straight loss.
Meanwhile, the UV Green Lancers blew hot and cold but eventually prevailed over the Jaguars, thanks to a strong finishing kick provided by the reigning league MVP, Wowie Escosio and the team’s high-flying import, Mike Harry.
UV led by 13 points, 46-33, at halftime but USJ-R came back and got within four, 44-48, after an 11-2 run led by rookie Fletcher Galvez and former University of the East Red Warrior James Regalado.
However, UV head coach Felix Belano had an ace up his sleeve in rookie wingman Venhur Villamor, who hit three of his four three-pointers in the third, the last one giving them their biggest lead of the game at 67-48.
The Jaguars though, had one last run in them as the second stringers injected life into their game. Led by Christian Senining and Christian Parker, USJ-R got within seven, 72-79, with 4:56 remaining in the game.
But Escosio responded with five straight points and Harry put the game away as he drove down the lane and hammered home a tomahawk dunk.
Harry wound up with 18 points and nine boards while Escosio finished with 15 markers. Galvez led the way for USJ-R with 16 points while Regalado added 15.