THE Sacred Heart School-Ateneo de Cebu Magis Eagles players showed nerves of steel as they outlasted the tough University of the Visayas (UV) Baby Lancers in Game 3, 58-55, to win the Cebu Schools Athletic Foundation Inc. (Cesafi) Season 23 high school basketball title on Friday night, Dec. 15, 2023, at the jam-packed Cebu Coliseum.
The championship was Ateneo de Cebu’s third in a row and seventh Cesafi high school championship. The Magis Eagles won four championships from 2013 to 2017 and have now won titles in 2019, 2022 and 2023.
The Game 3 victory was also a fitting finale in what was the final Cesafi game of ace point guard Jared Bahay’s storied high school career. Bahay led the Magis Eagles with 14 points and 11 rebounds to go with three steals and a block.
Both teams literally shed blood, sweat and tears in the deciding ballgame, but in the end, it was the Magis Eagles that proved steadier as they scored 10 straight points in a two-and-a-half-minute stretch late in the fourth period to turn a 46-49 deficit into a 56-49 lead with 1:31 left in the game.
RJ Dacalos first scored inside to trim the deficit to one before Jared Bahay canned a long triple to shove the Ateneo de Cebu in front, 51-49, with 2:36 to go. Magis Eagles forward Jelo Rota, who was left bloodied and bruised following an unsportsmanlike foul committed on him by UV’s Benedict Paca in the third, converted a layup off a crafty pass by Dacalos to push their lead to four. Moments later, Nikolas Yu swished in a corner triple for a 56-49 Magis Eagles lead.
UV refused to go away as two free throws made by John dela Torre pulled them to within five. But Froilan Maglasang came up with a huge steal and a bucket to raise Ateneo de Cebu’s lead to seven, 58-51, with 1:17 to go in the game. Unfortunately for the Magis Eagles, Maglasang got overzealous after making the shot and was called for a technical foul for staring down UV’s Kenneth Cole.
Dela Torre made the technical free throw to keep UV within striking distance. On the ensuing possession, the Baby Lancers had numerous clean looks at three-pointers but missed them all, and the Magis Eagles grabbed the rebound and pushed the ball upcourt.
However, a backcourt violation by Maglasang left the door ajar for the Baby Lancers, and dela Torre took advantage, sinking a three-pointer, to pull his team to within three, 55-58, with 6.6 ticks on the clock.
Yu was then fouled on the Magis to send him to the free-throw line with only 2.7 seconds left in the game. Yu missed both, and UV grabbed the board, but Rodolfo Cambarijan’s Hail Mary shot missed badly to give Ateneo de Cebu the win and the title.