THE UNIVERSITY of Southern Philippines Foundation (USPF) breathed life into their Final Four campaign with a hard-earned 88-81 win over the University of San Carlos (USC) Warriors in the 17th Cesafi men’s basketball tournament last night at the Cebu Coliseum.
Coming off an eye-opening 90-92 loss to Cebu Institute of Technology-University (CIT-U), the Panthers responded to their coach’s call to “play like wounded tigers” and scrapped their way to the victory – their third in eight games – to inch closer to the University of Cebu (UC), which owns the fourth spot and last semifinal berth at the moment at 4-4 (win-loss).
Five players scored in twin-digits for USPF led by the 20 points of Lugie Cuyos. Lyndon Colina added 17, Rodelio Cauba had 15, Edwin Villarta pitched in 12 and Kenneth Cada tallied 11.
Playing with renewed focus on the defensive end of the floor, USPF led by as many as 12 and started the fourth up by 10, 65-55. They were still ahead, 77-67, when the Warriors made their move and trimmed the deficit to four, 73-77, after a putback by Lucky Ecarma with 2:45 to go.
Cuyos responded with a cold-blooded triple to hold off USC’s charge but the Warriors pulled to within two, 81-83, after an uncontested lay-in by Ecarma with 23.3 ticks left.
But things got heated between Villarta and Ecarma, resulting in a brief scuffle. The Warriors paid dearly as big men Kent Cabanog, Kenn Oguis, Malcolm Tan and Leo Labiste left USC’s bench during the fracas and got ejected.
Afterwards, Villarta, Cuyos and Mike Patalinghug made five straight free-throws to seal the win for the Panthers.
In the high school competition, the four-time defending champions Sacred Heart School-Ateneo de Cebu Magis Eagles held the USC Baby Warriors to a mere eight points in the first half en route to a crushing 63-37 win.