Never before in the 10-year-old history of the Cebu Schools Association Foundation, Inc. (CESAFI) has a team come from 0-2 down in the finals to win. Not in 2001 when the league started. Not last year when the University of Cebu (UC) won the basketball collegiate crown for the first time. Not when UV — the University of the Visayas — won for the first nine seasons of the CESAFI.
Yayoy Alcoseba will change history beginning today.
“One game at a time,” said Alcoseba. “Before we can think of a full comeback, we’ll have to win today. That’s our goal. We can only think about winning a second and a third game if we win today.”
Raul Alcoseba is not acknowledged as the most successful coach — possibly of any sport ever in Cebu — for nothing. He’s won for M. Lhuillier a thousand times. He’s won for Balls. For Cebu Doctors a long while back. For ML Kwarta Padala. For many more teams and schools in the past decades.
Can Yayoy do it again with Southwestern University? Today? Win Game 3 against the behemoth named June Mar Fajardo? And win again in Game 4? Then once more in Game 5? This is impossible. It seems inconceivable. But the most trusted man of Michel Lhuillier has always been challenged by the most challenging of events.
Today’s Game 3 is such a challenge. “In the first two games of the finals,” Yayoy said, “we almost won. In Game 1, we had a chance. In Game 2, we had another chance but lost in overtime.”
That’s true. It’s not like SWU has been clobbered by UC. In last Monday’s Game 2, they should have won. With 160 seconds left in the ballgame, his SWU Cobras led the Webmasters, 73-70. They had ball possession. A two-pointer would have given them an insurmountable five-point advantage.
But, no. They made mistake after mistake. Justin Aboude was called for traveling. In their next possession, they were called for a 24-second violation. Inexperience. That’s what Yayoy calls it.
“UC has been in the finals three straight years,” he said. “In their first finals, they lost to UV. Last year, they won it. This season, they’re in the finals again. It shows. They have composure in the end.”
SWU has to play like they’ve got no tomorrow. Which is true. If, tonight at 6:45, when the two teams clash at the Cebu Coliseum, SWU once more loses, that’s it. There’s no tomorrow. They have to give it everything they’ve got — plus, plus.
“It’s the first time our players are in the finals,” said Yayoy. “We’ve had chances. We just can’t close out the games.”
Fajardo? The nearly-seven-foot-tall center who will surely be in the PBA soon?
“We cannot stop Fajardo,” he said. “What we need to do is to stop the three guards of UC. In Game 2, each of the three guards scored double-figures. We can’t win if that happens again. We have to stop that.”
The Cebu City Councilor, who’s been coaching the M. Lhuillier team for 25 years now, has never been 0-2 down. In fact, quite interesting to report it, the veteran coach has never, ever before been part of a three-out-of-five series.
“The CESAFI series is unique,” Yayoy said. “If you study the other leagues, they’re all either a two-out-of-three or a best-of-seven series. The NBA and the PBA are best-of-seven; the UAAP, NCAA and Liga are all best-of-three. It’s only the CESAFI that’s best-of-five.”
So, Yayoy has never been in this situation before. Never been 0-2 down. Never been with a youthful team in a three-out-of-five scenario.
Maybe, just maybe, if his Cobras win tonight… and, miraculously, again the next game… they might win it all. Won’t that be for the storybooks? Like CEC’s fairytale championship win last season? Amazing, if it happens.
But for Mr. Fajardo and his Team UC, that will be a tall, tall, giant, giant order.