CEBU—Southwestern University came back from 18 points down in the fourth period to defeat University of the Visayas, 73-72, in the best-of-five series decider to clinch its very first championship in the Cebu Schools Athletic Foundation Inc. men’s basketball tournament Saturday night at the Cebu Coliseum.
Monbert Arong completed the amazing rally from a 45-63 deficit by hitting the go-ahead free-throw with 18.7 seconds remaining. Arong, though, nearly turned from hero to goat in an instant. After the Cobras got possession back off a double-dribble turnover by UV’s Franz Arong with 6.1 ticks left, his inbound pass fell into the hands of the latter.
The Lancers’ Eman Calo banked in a three-pointer but officials ruled he did not make the shot in time, setting off a wild SWU celebration. The Cobras also erased the memory of their heartbreaking Game Five loss to the University of Cebu in the finals last year in a game that was also decided in the dying seconds.
The Cobras fell into a 45-63 hole after a two-handed slam dunk by Steve Akomo, with 7:48 to play.
SWU head coach Raul “Yayoy” Alcoseba sent in John Pajantoy late in the third and the seldom-used guard surprisingly delivered with some nifty lay-ups and timely passes to Mbala that fueled the comeback.
A 14-2 run got the Cobras within six, 59-65, but UV at that point, remained composed and answered with an inside basket and a free-throw by Rookie of the Year-MVP, Wowie Escosio and two more freebies by Akomo for a 70-61 lead with 2:16 remaining.
Still, SWU was relentless in its pursuit and two free-throws and a basket off a gorgeous spin by Mbala plus a floater by Arong off a steal got them within three, 67-70.
Mbala tied the game at 72-all with an inside basket over the defense both Akomo and Escosio, 49.8 left.
Mbala finished with 25 points and nine rebounds while Arong added 10. Pajantoy had eight points, six of which came in the payoff period. Escosio paced UV with 14 markers but was a non-factor at crunchtime.