Cebu’s green machine is back on top again. This after the University of the Visayas Green Lancers reclaimed the throne and won their 10th title after beating their arch-nemesis Southwestern University Cobras, 64-62, in the deciding Game Five of their epic best-of-five championship series in the Cesafi finals yesterday at the jampacked Cebu Coliseum.
In what would be considered to be the strangest, the longest, and arguably, the most exciting series finale in Cebu basketball history, it was last year’s MVP, Wowie Escosio, that dealt the final blow to the Cobras as his putback off a miss by import Mike Nzuesseu with 0.7 of a second left lifted the Green Lancers to the championship victory and banish the bitter memories of their title loss to these very same Cobras last season.
Largely criticized for winning the MVP trophy last year in spite of his abysmal free-throw shooting clip, the 6-foot-4 Escosio rose to the occasion as he scored UV’s last 11 points to finish with 16 points and five rebounds. Tied at 62-all with 7.2 seconds left in the game, Nzuesseu drove hard down the lane but missed his lay-up attempt. However, Escosio was there to snatch the offensive rebound and put it back in for a 64-62 count.
SWU had one last shot but Mark Jayven Tallo’s last ditch heave was off the mark as time expired, signalling the start of UV’s championship celebration. Mythical Five guard John Abad led the Lancers with 18 points, seven rebounds and four assists while Nzuesseu finished with 11 markers.
This win by the Lancers was one for the record books as they became the first team in Cebu’s collegiate basketball history to come back from a 0-2 deficit to hoist the crown. It was also UV’s first title in three years after losing in the finals in 2010 and 2012.
“We just wanted to take it one game at a time. I kept on telling my players that a true warrior battles until the last breath. Even when we were down 0-2, I just wanted the team to improve in every game,” said an ecstatic UV head coach Felix Belano.
The stirring finale though, nearly got shelved as the shotclock and the scoreboard on UV’s side of the floor malfunctioned in the first period. The Lancers initially refused to play until it was fixed but gave in to the concession that it will be repaired at halftime. However, things turned from bad to worse at the turn as both scoreboards and shot clocks conked out, leading Cebu City Mayor Mike Rama to announce that if it was not fixed in time, the game would have to be postponed.
Fortunately for the raucous crowd, both UV and SWU agreed to continue the game using a whiteboard for a scoreboard and the shotclock being announced periodically by the coliseum barker.
After a lull of more than an hour, the Lancers came out firing and went on a 14-2 run sparked by Abad and Steve Akomo that opened a 42-31 lead. But SWU showed their championship pedigree by rallying to tie the game at 60-all after a banked-in three-pointer by Tallo. Escosio briefly put the Lancers in front with a tip-in but the Cobras tied it at 62-all off a putback by Bernie Bregondo with 1:05 left. SWU even had two chances to take the lead but Tallo missed on a three-pointer while Sanjo bungled a lay-up leading to Escosio’s heroic save.
Sanjo led SWU with 21 points and 15 boards while Tallo had 12 but tallied just one dime. For the second game in a row, SWU missed the offense of the team’s other Mythical Five member, Monbert Arong, who wound up with just four points.
UV (64) – Abad 18, Escosio 16, Nzuesseu 11, Akomo 7, F. Arong 5, Santillan 3, Codilla 2, Marquez 2, Perolino 0, Villamor 0, Fajardo 0.
SWU (62) – Sanjo 21, Tallo 12, Goloran 10, Bregondo 9, Mohammed 6, M. Arong 4, Panerio 0, Siewe 0, Bautista 0, Acuno 0.
Quarter Scores: 14-12, 28-29, 49-41, 64-62.