CEBU CITY — University of the Visayas is now just a win away from capturing the high school basketball championship in the Chooks-to-Go Cebu Schools Athletic Foundation Inc. Season 23, upending reigning champion Sacred Heart School-Ateneo de Cebu in Game One of the best-of-three finals, 62-54, on Monday at the Cebu Coliseum here.
High-energy forward Roderick Cambarijan Jr. and crafty lefty Ismael Kim Culdora hit the big shots in the fourth to put the Baby Lancers in front for good and stave off every single comeback attempt by the Magis Eagles.
Cambarijan Jr. had 23 points, seven rebounds, an assist, four steals, and a block, while Culdora added 12 markers, 14 rebounds, two assists, a steal, and two blocks for UV, seeks to win its first CESAFI high school crown since 2017.
UV was up by just two, 44-42, when they began to pull away, thanks to a 9-2 run that featured free throws and a layup from Culdora, a booming triple from John de la Torre, and a bucket by Cambarijan that gave them a 53-44 lead with 4:55 left.
Ateneo de Cebu got some momentum going after back-to-back three-pointers from ace guard Jared Bahay that trimmed the deficit to three, 50-53, time down to 3:22.
However, UV had the answers.
Culdora sank a midrange jumper from the free-throw stripe while Cambarijan gathered the loose ball and drained a trifecta from the right wing for a 58-50 UV lead.
Moments later, Cambarijan drove hard to the rack and converted a difficult layup to give the Baby Lancers a 60-50 lead with 1:41 remaining.
Ateneo de Cebu kept at it and pulled to within six, 54-60, after a triple by Rodolfo Maglasang. But Cambarijan retaliated with another layup to stop the Magis Eagles dead in their tracks.
UV will try to bring home the high school crown in Game Two on Wednesday.
Nobody scored in double-figures for Ateneo de Cebu, with Bahay scoring just nine, all from beyond the arc.
Bahay, the top-ranked guard in the entire country, continued his string of awful shooting performances in the postseason, this time missing 11 of his 14 attempts. He did, however, have seven rebounds, three assists, four steals, and a block.
UV’s defense was phenomenal, as their physicality and relentlessness held Ateneo de Cebu to just 28.6 percent shooting for the night.
UV showed its mettle in the first half as they opened the game with an 18-11 lead after the first.
Ateneo de Cebu came alive in the second and took the driver’s seat at 29-27 after a short jumper by Lars Fjellvang.
However, a bucket by Vincent Aying and a steal and reverse layup by Kent Castro shoved the Baby Lancers in front, 32-29, at halftime. — JP