THE Hotel Fortuna/University of Cebu (UC) Junior Webmasters bucked a slow start to down the Cebu Elite/ University of San Carlos (USC) Baby Warriors, 78-67, in the high school division of the 2019 Cebu School Athletic Foundation Inc. (Cesafi) Partners Cup at the USC-Main gym on Saturday, June 15, 2019.

The Junior Webmasters are on a mission in this preseason, with the goal to improve the team chemistry after losing majority of their players.

Joever Samonte said after the game his team needs all the exposure they can get, especially that only three players are left from the 2018 team that won the Cesafi regular season title.

The Junior Webmasters showed that old swag as they rallied to erase the 12-4 deficit in the opening period and took a slim 35-31 halftime lead.

USC managed to tie the game at 46-all at the middle of the third quarter but UC staged a 13-4 blitz to end the quarter with a 59-50 edge. The Junior Webmasters held off USC in the final period to secure their second win in as many games.

“It’s a challenge for me. We need to gel. Right now, we still have work to do to achieve the team’s full potential,” Samonte said in Cebuano. “It’s a young team. My new players are around 14 to 15 years old, junior high students. Every practice I tell them to work on our defense. Our defense is the team’s bread and butter and we will win because of it. Offense comes easy if we play good defense.”

The Junior Webmaster showed a bit of that stingy defense in the final minutes of the playoff period as they weathered the rally of USC to come away with a convincing win.

“It was a slow start for us but it’s good the boys recovered and they showed good defense in the final five minutes of play,” said Samonte.

The Junior Webmasters lost key players, one of whom is Isaiah Blanco, the son of legendary Cebu cager and incoming Cebu City councilor Dondon Hontiveros. Blanco is set to play for the Far Eastern University Baby Tamaraws in the University Athletic Association of the Philippines.

“The new core is a challenge for me, especially we are going to defend our crown in the regular season,” said Samonte, adding they signed new players from Mindanao, Medellin, Moalboal and Bantayan Island.

Despite getting wins in the first two games, Samonte insisted there’s are a lot of things to improve.

“For me, the teams in the high school division are balanced. We can’t predict the outcome of every game. So we have to work hard every game and on practice,” he said. “It’s a learning experience every game.”

Max Micutuan top-scored for UC with 15, Kenyon Pondoc added 12, King Balaga chipped in 11 and Allain Gako and Charles Denapo poured in 10 each.

Matthew Booc was the bright spot for USC with 16.

In the other high school game, the OCCCI/Cebu Institute of Technology-University (CIT-U) Wildkittens stunned the Tough Gear/ Southwestern University (SWU-Phinma) Baby Cobras, 76-70.

Sol Tirol scored 20 points and Darryl Versales added 18 points for the Wildkittens.

Charles Libatog had 20, Dezeo Villanueva scored 16 and Kendall Limana handed 15 in a losing effort for the Baby Cobras.