Benin’s Kevine Gandjeto imposed his will inside in the payoff period as Diliman College outlasted Olivarez College, 63-57, and annexed its first championship in the Universities and Colleges Basketball League (UCBL) Season 3 yesterday.
Silencing the big Sea Lions crowd that packed the Olivarez gym in Parañaque, Gandjeto produced the game’s biggest plays for the Blue Dragons in the final three minutes of play.
Gandjeto’s dunk in the last 10.6 seconds put an exclamation point for Diliman to clinch the hotly-contested best-of-three series, 2-1.
For a jubilant Blue Dragons coach Rensy Bajar, those sleepless nights was worth it.
“Napakasarap itong championship na ito. No one expected us to be in this situation. It was hard work and perseverance of the players that won it for us,” said Bajar.
Atoning himself from a seven-point, five-rebound outing in last Thursday’s 71-80 loss that leveled the series, Gandjeto finished with 14 points, 10 rebounds, three blocks and three steals for Diliman.
Graduating swingman John Mahari, who scored four of his seven points in the Blue Dragons’ telling 11-0 run that erased a 41-47 deficit early in the fourth period that changed the complexion of the match, was named the Finals MVP.
Diliman was the top-ranked team in the eliminations and had its 10-game winning streak after losing to Olivarez in Game 2.
The Blue Dragons unloaded a 9-0 run to grab a 15-8 lead before the Sea Lions closed out the first period with seven straight points to tie the game at 15-15.
It was tight from there on as Olivarez was able to keep abreast with Diliman the rest of the first half.
Joshua Almajeda led the Sea Lions with 14 markers, five rebounds and four assists, while Dwight Saguiguit had 12 points, four assists and four boards.
Paolo Castro, Olivarez’s heart and soul, struggled by going scoreless in the first half and eventually finished with only six points.