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USLS, Royal Star Trading battle for championship

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USLS – Fyr Fyter’s Mark June De La Cruz (left) celebrating with John Edmund Escultura after their successful play that forced overtime.* Alan Su photo

Top seeded University of St. La Salle-Fyr Fyter and number two team Royal Star Trading advanced to the championship game of the 1st United Negros Basketball League 25 under Open Tournament at the Tay Tung High School Po Hang Gymnasium, following a pair of down the wire encounters with their respective opponents.

USLS snatched victory from the jaws of defeat as they needed extra time to outlast Colegio De San Agustin – Bacolod / Strived Sportswear, 66-59, while Royal Star Trading proved steadier in regulation to trip Davies Paints Phils., 94-90. 

Facing a 57-55 deficit with 3.5 seconds left, USLS designed a perfect play with Mark June De La Cruz inbounding an alley-oop crosscourt pass to John Edmund Escultura to send the game into overtime. In the extra period, after Strived’s Rowel Negro scored the tying basket that also coincided with teammate Mycco Deposoy going down with cramps with more than 4 minutes left, USLS turned up their defense to another level to keep CSA-B scoreless for the rest of the way.  

The first half was a slugfest as both teams were tied at 14-all in the first quarter and CSA-B took the lead at halftime, 27-26. 

USLS opened the 3rd quarter on a 13-3 run to take a 39-30 lead at the 4:45 mark, remaining on top to end the quarter, 49-39, behind a balanced offense led by Escultura’s 6 pts. USLS nursed a 10-point lead at 53-43, after a Terence Buenafe layup with 7:16 left in the payoff quarter. 

Strived Sportswear however regrouped and kept the number 1 seed scoreless for more than 5 minutes, as they rallied behind the aggressive play of Mycco Deposoy, who strung up 6 straight points to force a 53-all deadlock with 2:17 left.  Keith Rhaileen Ortillano broke the dry spell for USLS with a layup but AJ Ondon knocked down a crucial triple to give the lead back to CSA-B. Both teams could not get a basket in the ensuing plays until USLS was forced to foul Ondon with 3.5 seconds left, where he knocked down 1 of 2 free throws, leaving the door open for the USLS equalizer. 

Escultura and Martin Jay Beatingo starred for USLS with 11 points apiece, De La Cruz and Andrie Dubouzet added 10 each, Ivan Macabani – 6, Ortillano – 5, Lenz Catalan – 3, Buenafe and Bonn Ernest Daja – 2, Riggy Alinsoring and Nelbert Minerva – 1 each. 

For CSA-B, Deposoy and Negro submitted 13 points each, Jemar Cepriano -12, Kenneth Malazarte – 9, Ondon – 8, Manu Villareal and Mico Exaltado – 2 apiece. 

Meanwhile, Royal Star Trading avenged their elimination round loss to Davies Paints Phils. just 2 weeks ago by the same margin.

Playing with a sense of urgency, RST erected a 30-19 opening quarter lead as 10 players contributed for RST. Davies cut the deficit to 42-35 in the second quarter on a JB Co 3 point shot. Janlee Torrecampo and George Magalso scored the last 5 points for RST to keep them on the driver’s seat at the break, 55-44.

The 3 guard lineup Davies employed in the third quarter proved effective as Mark Ray Dubouzet caught fire, delivering 14 points with 3 triples, also getting support from teammates Ken Jay Sarco, John Louie Mermida and Garrucho who combined for 13 to cut the deficit to 1 point, 74-73. 

Davies remained within striking distance while RST consistently found ways to score to keep 4 to 5 point cushions.Davies Paintsfinally caught up with RST on a JB Co triple from the top of the key, tying the game at 88-all. Co also attempted a floater in the ensuing play that would have given Davies the lead, but the shot rimmed out. A Licawan basket with 36.1 seconds left, followed by 2 free throws each from Magalso and Edsel Manday sealed the final outcome for RST.  

14 of the 15 players fielded by coach Felix Garrido got on the scoresheet, spearheaded by John Lloyd Licawan’s 12 points, backstopped by Torrecampo – 11, Saldy Christopher Macabatao – 9, Magalso, Mel Brandon Berrueda, Joshua Genesis Vincoy, Philip John Majometano and Justine Ragay – 7 apiece, Reymart Carano-o and Jules Garcia – 6 each, Manday – 5, Jeorem Cabaylo and Ranier Karl Estrada – 4 each, and Rafael Catalonia – 2.

Dubouzet and Co led Davies with 17 points, Sarco – 15, Mermida – 13, James Garrucho – 8, Kent Macalalag – 7, Jerlo Faltiquera – 4, Shannon Sealey and Timothy Villanueva – 2 each, and Hurricane Tipon with 1 point.

The championship game and battle for 3rd place will be on May 28 at the same venue.*

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