CEBU CITY — University of Cebu Lapu-Lapu and Mandaue kept its finals chances alive, stunning reigning champion Sacred Heart School-Ateneo de Cebu, 55-52, in the semifinals of the Chooks-to-Go Cebu Schools Athletic Foundation Inc. (CESAFI) Season 23 high school basketball tournament on Thursday at the Cebu Coliseum here.
The win by UCLM means the two teams will duke it out in a do-or-die game on Saturday afternoon with the winner advancing to the best-of-three championship round.
UCLM had the lead and momentum on their side as they pulled ahead by seven, 49-42, after a layup by Prince Mallorca that came off a sensational save by speedy guard Kian Luchavez.
But the Magis Eagles banked on the shotmaking of Jelo Rota and Alden Cainglet to pull within one, 48-49, with three minutes left in the game. Mallorca, though, answered with a short jumper from the baseline to push their lead to three, 51-48.
That’s when things got dicey as Cainglet, who was on his way to the rim for a layup, got taken down by a hard shoulder block by UCLM guard Revo Lao.
Players from both teams got in one another’s faces and when the dust settled, Lao was assessed an unsportsmanlike foul while Nikolas Yu got ejected for throwing a punch at a UCLM player.
When play resumed, Ateneo de Cebu recovered to tie the game at 51-all after free throws from Jared Bahay and Erik Jabalon, time down to 1:18.
But Mallorca was not done, as he responded with a tough layup to give UCLM the lead, 53-51. Cainglet then drew a foul and split his free throws to pull Ateneo de Cebu to within one, 52-53.
Brylle Diaz then came up with the biggest shot of the match as he canned a transition layup to give UCLM a 55-52 lead with 14.9 seconds remaining after Bahay lost the ball on his way to the basket.
Ateneo de Cebu had a couple of chances to tie the game but Cainglet and Rodolfo Maglasang flubbed their three-point attempts before time expired.
Lao led UCLM with 10 points, four rebounds, and three assists. Mallorca, Arnold Minoza, and John Sala had nine points each.
Bahay had 12 points for Ateneo de Cebu, while Rota added nine.
The Magis Eagles didn’t help their cause by making just 14 of their 43 attempts from the free-throw line. – JP