Cesafi: Rookie Claridad the unlikely hero as UV takes finals opener vs USJ-R
CEBU CITY – Rookie guard Jafet Claridad delivered the goods when it mattered most, draining the go-ahead three-pointer in crunch time to lift the University of the Visayas Green Lancers past the University of San Jose-Recoletos Jaguars, 78-74, in Game 1 of the 2018 Cesafi men’s basketball tournament on Thursday night at the Cebu Coliseum.
Thrust into the fire a mere two minutes into the game after UV’s starting point guard Gileant Delator suffered an injury to his hamstring, the 22-year old recruit from the University of Negros Occidental-Recoletos sank a triple from the left wing to break a 74-all deadlock and give UV a 77-74 lead with 1:29 to go.
The Jaguars had several chances to come closer but forward Dinolan missed two lay-ups, which eventually led to a made free-throw by Green Lancer big man, Bassieru Sackor, that clinched the victory.
UV can clinch the title this season and complete a rare “three-peat” with a win in Game 2 on Saturday evening.
More than his timely three-pointer was the work that Claridad did on the other end of the floor as he shadowed USJ-R’s main man, reigning MVP Jaybie Mantilla, all game long, forcing him into a 5-of-16 shooting night. After scoring 10 in the first canto, Mantilla was limited to a mere eight points the rest of the way and finished with 18.
“Ang sabi ko lang talaga na kapag binigyan ako ng opportunity, ibubuhos ko lahat sa floor,” said Claridad who finished with 14 markers off of his four makes from beyond the arc.
Asked of his mindset on defense, especially against the reigning MVP, Claridad said, “Coach just told me to just focus on Mantilla and nobody else.”
Sackor led UV with 18 points, nine rebounds, three assists, two steals and two blocked shots while Jancork Cabahug came off the bench and sparked UV’s offense when they were down, 3-14, in the first. He and Claridad combined to score 22 of the Green Lancers 39 points in the first half that ended with them trailing by just three, 39-42. He finished with 16 points.
Rey Anthony Suerte, who was the focal point of USJ-R’s defense all game, missed out on a rare triple-double for UV with 15 points, nine rebounds and nine assists.
Nichole Ubalde pumped in 16 points, five rebounds and two steals for USJ-R, which is looking to end a 25-year title drought. However, the defensive sentinel sat out the final moments of the game after suffering leg cramps. Dinolan added 14 points, nine boards and four dimes.