For the first two games of the best-of-five finals series of the 13th Cesafi men’s basketball tournament, the University of the Visayas (UV) struggled to earn respect in the face of dominant wins by the reigning champions, Southwestern University (SWU) Cobras.
In the ensuing two games however, the Lancers masterfully exacted revenge with thrilling victories which included a double-overtime win in Game Three to level the series at 2-all.
Today, the Lancers gun for a return to the throne they last held in 2009 as they battle the Cobras one more time, for all the marbles in the deciding Game Five at what will surely be a jampacked and raucous Cebu Coliseum.
All the hype that has enshrouded the intense rivalry between these two age-old enemies and the resulting hostilities that have colored confrontations, both during the preseason and this tournament, have led to this – a game to end all games to determine who are truly are the kings of Cebu collegiate basketball.
Momentum is most definitely on the Lancers’ side after they won Game Three, 89-82 and Game Four, 71-66. They stand at the cusp of history as no team has ever come back from a 0-2 deficit to win the crown.
This finals series has been like night and day for UV, with lackadaisical play haunting their start to this series. Fortunately for the Lancers, they were able to rediscover their identity by accepting the basketball mantras that head coach Felix Belano has been preaching to them since day one.
“The biggest difference is that we as a team have lived up to our conditioning, chemistry and character mantras in basketball,” Belano told Cebu Daily News during their practice session yesterday morning.
UV’s biggest spark has been the smallest player in its roster, the 5-foot-6 lefty John Abad, who with his heady play and steady shot-making, has resuscitated the Lancers’ once dying title hopes. He scored 20 in Game Three including several dagger free-throws down the stretch and reprised his role in Game Four, finishing with a team-high 24 capped by two free-throws in the dying seconds that shut the door on the Cobras.
In spite of the two awe-inspiring wins, Belano quickly reminded his wards that their biggest battle is still to come.
“Championships are earned in the hardest of ways. We were reminded by Sir Eddie (Gullas) to play like there’s no tomorrow, play with a big heart, defend courageously and as always, make our free-throws,” added Belano.
He also cautioned his troops against becoming overly confident against the Cobras, who before Games Three and Four, were unbeaten in 14 straight games.
“Overconfidence has no place in the one who vies for the crown. If our wins will get into our heads, then we are bound to fail,” the former pro cager bared.
WILL AND HUNG
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