CEBU – University of Visayas leaned on its veterans to get back at Southwestern University, 81-79, and level the 12th Cebu Schools Athletic Foundation Inc. (Cesafi) men’s basketball Finals at 1-1 on Thursday night at the Cebu Coliseum.
League MVP Wowie Escocio scored the go-ahead basket for the Green Lancers before John Abad iced the win with a split from the foul line in the final 2.6 seconds as UV avoided falling 0-2 behind in the best-of-five title series.
Abad again came up big for the Lancers with 17 points, including eight in the payoff period. Eman Calo led the team with 19 markers, Escosio bounced back from a disappointing Game One performance with 16, while Steve Akomo had a double-double of 10 points and 15 rebounds.
For a while, the Cobras appeared headed to a second straight win as they led early in the fourth, 60-50, behind the hot hands of guard Monbert Arong.
Then disaster struck.
Prized big men Ben Mbala and Justin Aboude fouled out one after the other, leaving the Cobras without a reliable frontcourt presence.
The Green Lancers expectedly capitalized, tying the game at 78-all on a three-pointer by Abad.
Bernie Bregondo and Joseph Nalos then missed back-to-back attempts for the Cobras, before the Green Lancers finally grabbed the upperhand at 80-78 on an unmolested lay-up by Escocio with 13 seconds left.
Southwestern had a chance to tie the game in the next possession, but Nalos sank just one of two free throws.
Abad made it a one-possession game following a split from the foul line. Arong’s game-winning heave, however, fell short at the buzzer.
Arong, who celebrated his birthday on this same night, led Southwestern with 28 points, including eight three-pointers. The last of those treys gave the Cobras their final taste of the lead at 78-75 with 50 seconds to go.
Mbala, the Cameroonian import, added 13 points before fouling out at the 5:27 mark, while Bregondo finished with 12.