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Cesafi 2019 finals

Lamine Thiam a key factor in SWU-Phinma’s magical ride in Cesafi 2019

By: Immae Lachica - CDN Digital | November 13,2019 - 11:59 AM

Coach Mike Reyes of SWU-Phinma calls out a play in one of the team’s elimination round game in the Cesafi men’s basketball tournament. CDN Digital photo | Brian J. Ochoa

Cebu City, Philippines—From a losing season a year ago, to being back in the finals after a five-year drought, the Southwestern University (SWU)-Phinma Cobras are in a magical ride so far in the 2019 Cesafi men’s basketball tournament. 

The Cobras, who last won the Cesafi men’s title in the 2014-2015 season, are in the finals again following a 65-56 win over the University of San Carlos (USC) in the semifinal round on Tuesday night, November 13, 2019.

Read: SWU-Phinma is back in the Cesafi finals

SWU-Phinma coach Mike Reyes, in an interview with CDN Digital via Facebook Messenger, said there are two factors that helped the Cobras’ transformation this year.

“Definitely Lamine (Thiam) and the lessons that our veterans acquired or learned through two years of losing,” said Reyes, who is in the Cesafi finals for the first time as coach for the Cobras.

Lamine Thiam of SWU-Phinma. | CDN Digital file photo

The Cobras first showed what they are capable of this year when they won the preseason Cesafi Partner’s Cup last summer, beating the powerhouse and defending champion University of the Visayas (UV) via sweep.

 At the forefront of SWU-Phinma’s offense was Thiam, a 6-foot-6 foreign student-athlete from Senegal.

“The difference this year is that we have Lamine,” said SWU-Phinma wingman Sir Shaquille Imperial. “We have more rebounds per game compared to previous years when we had no import.”

But Thiam won’t take credit for the team’s success so far.

“[I’m] very proud of my teammates and coaches, who did lots of sacrifices [for the team],” the 21-year-old Thiam said. “Now we just have to keep focus on the finals and finish the job.”

Finish the job is what’s also in coach Reyes’ mind as he tries to make his team ready for whoever they face in the finals.

UV and the University of Cebu (UC) are going to battle for the right to face SWU-Phinma on Thursday, November 14, 2019,  at the Cebu Coliseum.

UC has a twice-to-beat edge over the defending champion UV.

Reyes said they have to play a near-perfect game to win the crown against either UV or UC. One thing they need to improve on, according to Reyes is the team’s “continuity offense.”

The finals is slated to start on Sunday, November 17 at the Cebu Coliseum. /bmjo

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TAGS: 2019, basketball, Cesafi, college, Finals, Lamine Thiam, mike reyes, Phinma, Shaq Imperial, SWU

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