THE University of San Carlos Warriors’s threats are for real.
For the first time since 2007, the Warriors find themselves back in the Cebu Schools Athletic Foundation Inc. (Cesafi) finals after eliminating the University of the Visayas Green Lancers, 67-58, in the semifinal round encounter last night at the Cebu Coliseum.
The mostly-inexperienced Warriors put on a gallant fight. However, USC suddenly found itself having a relatively easy finish when UV self-destruct towards the end, spiked by a near boxing match of UV players—foreign reinforcement Jeffakins Aguara and guard Francisco Arong.
It came after Aguara allowed USC’s Cameroonian Shooster Olago a slam dunk without a challenge in the final 35 seconds.
Before that, Aguara heaved a hurried three-point attempt that blew the tops of his teammates since they badly needed a basket to make a comeback.
This had earned the ire of Arong, who argued with Aguara. Both players looked headed for each other when the UV coaching staff, especially assistant coach Gary Cortes intervened and prevented the bemuscled Nigerian center on using a mixed martial arts rare-naked-choke technique on Arong.
“We are less-experienced than UV but my players played with a lot of heart. I'm happy and proud with the way my players played this game. They played tough defense and they showed they are deserving to be the No.1 team that they are deserving to be in the Finals," Junthy Valenzuela told Sun.Star Cebu after the game.
USC controlled the momentum of the game early as UV succumbed to string of turnovers, which they blamed to the new ball used. They claimed it was too slippery and tough to handle.
USC too made a lot of turnovers because of the ball but they kept their composure and took control of the entire first half.
But things changed after the halftime break when UV managed to drop a series of spurts that allowed them to lead by eight points, 44-36 on John Abad's triple at the 2:54 of the third.
The Warriors worked with their defense and regained the lead after dropping a 9-0 counter run that gave them a 45-44 lead entering the final quarter.
“It was a nice game. They boys played with the spirit and heart of a true Warriors. They deserved this victory," added Bogo City mayor and the team’s chief backer Mayor Junie Martinez.
The lead changed hands five times before the Warriors prevailed by allowing UV to score only two field goals after Raffy Octobre sank a triple that gave the Lancers a 51-49 lead at the 7:33 mark.
Olago and rookie guard Gio Laguyo made the difference as USC dropped a telling 16-4 run while UV slowly crumbled into pieces after Abad fouled out at the 3:29 mark.
“I am very thankful for the support of the alumni and the USC administration and we hope this momentum will continue until the championship," USC athletic director Fr. Adriano Ocariza said.
Olago scored the game high 24 points for USC while Abad topscored for UV with 23 points.
USC is now looking up to the Best-of-five championship date between the winner of the SWU and USJ-R which will have their semifinal game on Thursday.