Freeman Cebu Sports

Wildcats shock Jaguars

Emmanuel B. Villaruel - The Freeman

CEBU, Philippines - The seventh-ranked Cebu Institute of Technology-University Wildcats dropped a bombshell with their 68-66 upset of the twice-to-beat University of San Jose-Recoletos Jaguars to live and fight for another day in the 16th Cebu Schools Athletic Foundation, Inc. men's basketball tournament last night at the Cebu Coliseum.

The Wildcats thus forged a rubbermatch against the second-ranked Jaguars at 5:15 p.m today, with the winner completing the four-team semifinal cast alongside the undefeated elimination round topnotcher Southwestern University-Phinma Cobras, the University of the Visayas Green Lancers and defending champions University of San Carlos Warriors.

It was truly the night of the Wildcats as they quickly erased an early 2-11 deficit, using a blistering 23-4 run to take a 25-15 lead. The Jaguars though fought their way back to crawl within three at halftime, 28-31.

The two protagonists figured in a nip-and-tuck battle in the final half that was accounted for seven deadlocks and eight lead changes. The Jaguars were on top for the last time at 62-60 as Marlo Pono scored five in a 6-0 blitz that pushed the Wildcats ahead by four, 66-62, with less than two minutes left to play. The Wildcats could have even pulled further had John Lucena made his attempts from the stripe.

After Miro Alicaway of CIT-U answered a basket by USJ-R's Nelvin Navarra, Jaybie Mantilla nailed two shots from the foulline to put the Jaguars within just two points, 66-68, with only 13 seconds left to play.

In the ensuing sequence, Marlo Pono flubbed two free throws with nine ticks remaining. The Jaguars had a chance to steal the win but Mantilla's three-pointer with time running out bounced off the rim, causing the Wildcats' bench to burst into a frenzied celebration.

It was the Wildcats' only second win in 12 games this season. Their previous victory was against the Warriors. (FREEMAN)

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