The improbable win of Southwestern University

Yayoy Alcoseba calls the date “October 6” as “historic.” Ryan Aznar, the athletic director (since 2006) of Southwestern University, credits one act of his players for their success: praying before and after each game. Felix Tiukinhoy, the commissioner of the Cebu Schools Athletic Foundation, Inc. (Cesafi), when I asked him to rank this game from 1 to 10, did not hesitate to say: “The game was a 10! The best so far.”

Everybody’s talking about the incredible victory of SWU over UV last Saturday night. “We were down 18 points with seven minutes and 55 seconds in the fourth quarter,” said Yayoy yesterday. “I’ve been through many comebacks before but this one is extra special. In one final against MisO in Cagayan de Oro, my team trailed the entire game until the very last shot when we won the game. That was special. But this was historic.”

Like many classic battles, this was a seesaw contest. SWU won Game 1. UV won games 2 and 3. SWU won Game 4. Game 5? The winner-take-all finale? It appeared that UV would win. In his Facebook post, Noel Advin aptly coined an acronym for S.W.U.

SWU: “Sorry, Winner ang UV.” Noel correctly wrote that UV fans thought of that acronym for most of Game 5. Until the dramatic last few minutes that ended with SWU’s 73-72 win.

What happened? “When UV had that lead of 18 points with only minutes left, they became tentative,” Yayoy said. “They were no longer aggressive with the offense. They knew that the clock was ticking. Na usab ilang game. They were running the clock, waiting for the time.”

SWU? They had nothing to lose. That’s why Yayoy brought in John Pajantoy. They were desperate. They needed a miracle. “While UV became tentative, we became aggressive. We had no choice. We had to play catch up,” said Yayoy.

UV was playing not to lose — instead of trying to win. And it cost them. The game. The title. The season. “The momentum changed,” said Yayoy. “We fought back. Our players gained confidence.”

My fellow SunStar writer Rommel Manlosa said it best when he wrote: “UV was in total control of the game and showed it had better experience but it was SWU who had the heart and determination to win the championship.”

RYAN AZNAR. One person to be credited for SWU’s triumph is their athletic director, Ryan Aznar.

A former Cebu Country Club jungolfer who is now into practical shooting, Ryan is also a commissioner of the Cebu City Sports Commission and a board member of the Cebu Volleyball Association.

As a testament to his devotion to SWU’s sports program  — and not just the school’s basketball program — Ryan told me that while the SWU team celebrated at (fittingly) Yayoy’s Grill after the game, he head to leave early. The reason: Early the next day, the SWU girls volleyball team will play in the championship as well as the women’s team.

Ryan credits the SWU populace for the support. “Our chairman of board, Maris Aznar Holopainen, and treasurer Ana Alfonso Almario are at the forefront of our entire sports program together with the rest of the board of directors of SWU. Our university president Dr. Elsa Suralta is also credited for her all-out support and to the entire SWU community.”

Mr. Aznar thanks Coach Alcoseba. “His experience was a big factor on us winning; it was his idea that we get foreign players and even UV followed, too. Also, Coach Mike Reyes was a perfect addition to SWU’s coaching staff.”

As to the grand victory party, Ryan said that that will have to wait. “It’s our final exams this week, no time yet to celebrate.”

But very soon, the school founded a couple of years after the war (1946) will soon celebrate and party. On the 12th year of the Cesafi season, the team with the colors maroon and gold finally struck gold.

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