THE Ave Maria Park and Sanctuary-University of San Jose-Recoletos swept the best of three semifinals series of the Cebu Schools Athletic Foundation Inc. (Cesafi) Partners Cup after surviving the gritty Lion-Tiger Aerosol-University of Southern Philippines Foundation, 89-69, yesterday at the Cebu Coliseum.
Ave Maria will face the winner between San Marino-University of San Carlos and PTT Fuels-University of the Visayas Green Lancers.
The Green Lancers forced a Game 3 today after snapping USC’s seven-game streak last night, 100-76.
The Panthers put up a gallant fight at the start of the game behind Jordan Bardillas, who scored nine of his 18 points in the first, for an 18-9 lead.
However, USPF’s efforts all went down the drain when USJ-R head coach Edito Salacot fielded Mannie Gabas, Jabe Delfino, Armand Ponce and Kurt Amores.
The four combined for a strong performance in the second period and USJ-R snatched the driver’s seat from USPF, 33-32, at the turn.
Although USJ-R kept the lead until the end, they had a hard time brushing off the stubborn USPF.
In the third period, USJ-R started with an 11-3 run and had an 11-point lead, 63-59, but USPF answered back and cut the lead to 69-58 at the end of the third.
USJ-R, who was powered by some of its former strongest players, took advantage of the import-less USPF to take full control in the final period.
Gabas upped the ante and scored three straight triples that pushed USJ-R to a lead of as much as 20, 85-65.
Delfino led all scorers with 14 points, while Amores and Gabas scored 13 each for USJ-R.
In the juniors division, the Enervon C-University of Cebu overpowered the Ave Maria-USJ-R Baby Jaguars, 86-84, and will face PTT Fuels-UV in the finals.
USJ-R actually led at halftime, 43-49, but Paul Comendador, Alvin Labo-Labo and Jerei Pingoy initiated a scorching 28-17 run to pave the way for a UC victory.
UC was holding on to a five-point lead, 86-81, in the final eight seconds of the game when USJ-R saw a glimmer of hope from Renzo Senening, who hit a triple that cut the lead down to just two.
However, they ran out of time.