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Monday, December 06, 2021

Limpag: Can underdog USC win it all?

FOR the fifth straight year, the Cesafi basketball finals is going to a Game 5. The University of San Carlos Warriors, last year’s losing finalist, is also involved in a second straight Game 5, while the University of the Visayas Green Lancers will be in their third Game 5 in four years.

UV lost to Southwestern Universtiy in 2012, 73-72, and got even a year later and won Game 5, 64-62. Last year, a jittery Warriors team lost Game 5, 64-49, to the SWU Cobras, which finished fourth this year.

Will the Warriors overcome jitters again? Or will they fold up like they did in the fourth quarter of Game 4?

Ahead by three, 44-41, with 10 minutes left to end the 57-year title drought in the Cesafi, the Warriors began throwing bricks in the fourth quarter and started losing the ball over carelessly.

Coach Bret Reroma was fuming at courtside at the way his players unraveled themselves and at one point, he called one player’s attention, tapped his chest with a closed fist and shouted that all too-familiar cry, “PUSO!”

Did the pressure got to be too much? The pressure of ending a 57-year-old title drought? Did the Warriors choke? I think, in that crucial fourth quarter run, when the Warriors offense was silenced, the pressure played a bit of a factor. But to be fair to the USC Warriors, you can see the determination in their faces when they tried to fight back in the final minutes.

They were giving it their all. Their shots just weren’t falling. Inside, outside or from the free throw line, they were throwing bricks, while the Lancers seemed to have found their magic touch and couldn’t, even with their eyes closed.

Four minutes into the fourth quarter, UV was ahead by 10, 54-44, after a 13-0 run that had the USC bench wondering what hit them. At one point, I heard Coach Reroma telling a player, “Ang basketball, simple ra...” I didn’t get to hear the rest of the statement, but once a coach starts reminding the players of the basics of the game in a fourth quarter of a Game 4, you know they are in trouble.

Before the series started, I told a couple of friends in the media that I thought USC would win the series in Game 4. The reason, not based on actual analysis, was simple--it would take a miracle for the Warriors to win the series via a sweep, so a 3-1 win would be the more realistic scenario for one who wants the Warriors to win it all.

And why 3-1 and not 3-2? It’s simple. It’s UV. You’d be crazy to project a Game 5 win against UV, whose veteran players have been in this situation and has experienced different outcomes in 2012 and 2013.

When it comes to a Game 5, UV, whatever its rank after the semifinal round, is always the favorite. So yes, I was hoping for a 3-1 win for USC because I didn’t want to see them in a Game 5.

But it’s Game 5 we have and it’s the best scenario for the Cesafi basketball fans.

Winner-take-all. UV against USC. A chance for redemption for both teams. For USC, it’s a chance to redeem itself after choking last year, and for UV--which has, for years been the barometer for a perfect college basketball team in Cebu--it’s also a chance to redeem itself for self-destructing last season.

Who will take it? Who will be the hungrier team? Who will have the poise in the end game? Who will you be rooting for at the Cebu Coliseum?

Like I’ve always said repeatedly in the past, I love underdog stories, and tomorrow, like I’ve done in the previous games, I’ll be in yellow, hoping my alma mater ends that drought. For they have become the underdog. There will be thousands of fans in green, too, led by the Gullas family.

And like I told UV team manager and Cebu representative Samsam Gullas minutes before Game 1, “Good luck and may the best team win.”

Game 5 on Tuesday. Don’t miss it.

(www.mikelimpagblog.wordpress.com)
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