The University of Cebu (UC) Webmasters gave their finals hopes a lifeline as they nipped the University of Southern Philippines Foundation (USPF) Panthers, 68-67, in the semifinals of the Cebu Schools Athletic Foundation Inc. (Cesafi) Season 22 collegiate basketball tournament on Thursday night at the Cebu Coliseum.

UC’s victory means they will square off once again versus USPF on Saturday at 3:30 p.m. with the winner advancing to the best-of-three finals which starts immediately on Sunday, December 11.

The other semifinal pairing is also going down the wire with the top-seeded University of the Visayas Green Lancers facing off against the University of San Jose-Recoletos Jaguars in another winner-take-all game for the other finals ticket at 5 p.m.

Down by seven, 49-56, heading to the final stanza, the Panthers gave it one last go and pulled to within one, 57-58, after a putback by Ajie Mendez. But the Webmasters were up to the task and responded with five straight points, a free-throw from Joseph Arth Nalos, and transition baskets from Jhiey Paraldo, and Michael Diaz to raise their lead to 63-57.

USPF kept within striking distance, 60-63, thanks to a triple from RR Cauba, but Luther Leonard answered with a free-throw for a 64-60 UC lead. Cauba continued his assault on UC’s defense with a layup off an inbound play to trim the deficit to two, 62-64. However, the Webmasters countered with a floater from Paul Galinato to keep the Panthers at bay with 1:16 remaining.

Mendez scored another basket inside to pull USPF closer, 64-66, with 28 seconds remaining. However, Mark Ecal calmly sank two free-throws to bring UC’s lead to 68-64 with 15 ticks remaining. Cauba made things interesting as he scored a three-pointer to cut UC’s lead down to one, 67-68, with just 1.3 seconds left.

USPF then fouled Nalos who missed both free-throws as time expired, giving UC the victory.

Paraldo led UC with 14 points while Galinato added 11.

Cauba paced USPF with 17 markers.