CEBU CITY, Philippines – The Japan basketball team, manned by players from the Nippon Sports Science University (NSSU) Lions, has become the virtual champion of the basketball tournament of the ongoing first Asia Pacific University Games following its third straight win in as many games at the expense of 2015 CESAFI champion University of San Carlos (USC) Warriors Sunday, December 6 on the latter's home turf.
There are 3 teams seeing action for the Philippines, aside from the USC Warriors, also playing are the University of Cebu (UC) Webmasters and the University of Southern Philippines Foundation (USPF) Panthers.
The Lions survived the challenge put up by the Warriors, 73-70, to remain unbeaten and ensure themselves of the title despite one last game against Malaysia represented by a team from the Universiti of Teknologi – MARA (UiTM) on December 7 at the USPF gym.
The tournament is being played in a single round-robin format and the team with the most number of wins will be declared as the champion.
Should Japan lose to Malaysia, it will tie in standings with the winner between UC and USPF which will be played before the Japan versus Malaysia match. However, Japan will take the title by virtue of win over the other because it has beaten both UC and USPF.
Sekido Yusuke led Japan with 16 points while Oshiro Yusaku and Kato Kei added 14 and 9 points, respectively.
Ian Jefferson Tagapan seemed to have found his mark as he topscored for USC Warriors with 19 points while Nicolas Kyle Magat chipped in 10 points.
This tournament has also drawn surprising performances from Dolan Adlawan who finished with 8 points which he scored all in the second canto to hand the USC Warriors a slim 1-point lead, 31-30, at halftime.
The USC Warriors was able to keep up with the Lions in the middle of the first quarter behind the efforts of William McAloney who scored 9 points in that quarter alone but eventually fell to an 8-point deficit, 15-23, going into the second quarter.
After Dolan helped the Warriors snatched a 1-point lead at the end of the first half, 31-30, Tagapan took up the scoring cudgels with 11 points, still the Warriors were down by six points going into the finl canto.
The Warriors came close at just a point twice in the final quarter 60-61 on the split charities of Magat and 68-69 on a 4-point play by Tagapan but gift shots from Taguchi Wataru and Odagiri Tadashi did them in.
As disappointing as USC's performance was in this tournament, the USPF Panthers made up for it with its second win after prevailing over Malaysia/UiTM via an overtime, 91-86, after the regulation ended at 78-all.
The Panthers caught up with Malaysia in the last two minutes of the regulation and forced an extra 5 minutes.
High school standout Ain Obenza, 17, who has been tapped to play with the USPF senior team in this tournament, continues to topbill for the Panthers, this time with a game-high 32 points. Lyndon Colina added 13 points while Karl Langahin contributed 12 points, all scored from beyond the arc.
Saifurizan Bin Mohamed Ali led Malaysia with 21 points while Patrick Heintzmann and Mohd Firdaus B Kamarudin finished with 17 and 15, respectively.
Standings as of December 6
Japan/NSSU – 3 Wins, 0 Loss
Philippines/UC – 2 Wins, 1 Loss
Philippines/USPF – 2 Win, 1 Loss
Philippines/USC – 1 Win, 3 Losses
Malaysia/UiTM – 0 Win, 3 Losses