By Jerome Lagunzad
Colegio de San Lorenzo big man Soulemane Chabi Yo exchanged high-fives with pro-bound teammate Jon Gabriel, guard Charles Callano basked under the rain of white confetti and coach Boni Garcia earned a traditional victory ride from his players yesterday.
The Griffins had plenty of reasons to do so as they swept their way past the Centro Escolar University Scorpions, 71-65, to clinch the Universities and Colleges Basketball League (UCBL) Season 2 crown at the Olivarez Coliseum in Sucat, Parañaque City.
Backup Jan Formento ignited their breakaway run in the middle quarters before the 5-foot-7 Callano delivered the killer blows down the stretch to help CdSL repeat an 86-78 victory in the series opener over the weekend and dethrone CEU via a two-game sweep.
“This means a lot,” admitted Garcia, trying to fight back his tears after steering the Griffins to the Promised Land at the expense of the Scorpions who gave them the big boot in the Final Four round last year.
“Before we arrived here, I told my players to dream that they’re cutting the net, they’re celebrating with their teammates and our fans. Just dream of being the champions and we will all work hard for it. I think they were inspired by that.”
Formento came off the bench but led all scorers with 23 points, spiked by five triples, while the 6-foot-6 Chabi Yo proved why he’s the reigning Best Foreign Player with an all-around showing of 12 points, 15 rebounds, four blocks and three assists.
It was Callano, however, who delivered the key baskets down the stretch, including a game-clinching lay-up off a counter steal against CEU counterpart Judel Fuentes, restoring CdSL’s lead back to six at 69-63 with 23.8 seconds to play.
“I just kept my focus on the game and I’m confident that we could finish them off as long as we gave our best,” said the proud Leyte native, who finished with 19 points, eight of them coming in the final period on the way to bagging the Finals MVP honors.
Fuentes had a game-high 21 points while JJ Manlangit added 20 points and seven rebounds but the Scorpions struggled to overcome the abrupt exit of top guard Orlan Wamar, who picked up his fifth and final foul with more than eight minutes to play.
Callano chiefly pounced on that big development as he banged in back-to-back triples for a 65-54 lead, putting the sizeable Griffins gallery up on its feet with a little over five minutes left.
But the Scorpions refused to roll down and die as they charged back behind the combined exploits of Fuentes and Manlangit, pulling the closest at four points, the last at 63-67 with 49 seconds remaining.
CEU could have pulled closer after forcing a defensive stop on Callano but the gutsy CdSL guard made up for it quick as he swiped the leather behind from Fuentes and went all the way for an unmolested lay-up.
CdSL 71 – Formento 23, Callano 19, Chabi Yo 12, Gabriel 6, Rojas 5, Sablan 4, Alvarado 2, Ancheta 0, Laman 0.
CEU 65 – Fuentes 21, Manlangit 20, Wamar 8, Arim 7, Caballero 4, Demigaya 2, Guinitaran 2, Umeanozie 1, Baconcon 0, Cruz 0.
Quarters: 20-13, 36-25, 55-47, 71-