By REYNALD MAGALLON
Centro Escolar University weathered a huge fourth quarter storm from Olivarez College to come away with a 92-82 victory and win the 5th PG Flex Linoleum-Universities and Colleges Basketball League (UCBL) title in a sweeping fashion on Thursday, Feb. 2 at the Paco Arena in Manila.
Dominant all-tournament long, the Scorpion shrugged off a late resistance from the Sea Lions and etched their names to the annals of the UCBL’s young history as the only team to complete a tournament sweep.
Awarded by PG Flex owner Nelson Guevarra, CEU claimed its second title which it first won during UCBL’s inaugural season in 2016.
Adjudged as one of the Mythical Team members in a short awarding ceremony before the game, Lenard Santiago dropped 22 points, six assists and five steals in the title clincher as he formed a deadly one-two punch with Jerome Santos who also finished with 22 points, four rebounds and three assists.
The two spearheaded a strong start for CEU where it immediately seized control of the contest before helping the Scorpions steady the ship against repeated runs from the Sea Lions in the ensuing quarters.
Refusing to go down without a fight, Olivarez still came too close for comfort in the final frame where it managed to cut the lead down to four, 77-81, with 4:29 left behind the efforts of Edmund Dela Cruz, Mark Gallano and John Umali.
CEU, however, restored order with two solid defensive stops, first a block from Henry Agunnane which translated into a layup from Ron Rei Tolentino before forcing another Olivarez turnover in the next possession which practically sealed the deal.
Dela Cruz and Gallano paced Olivarez with 19 and 14 points respectively, living up to their earlier Mythical Team awards where they were also joined by Santiago, Jan Derrick Villarez of the University of Batangas and Season MVP Robbie Darang of Diliman College.
Claud Christian Njike Tabeth, meanwhile, was named as Best Foreign Player of the tournament.