MANILA, Philippines — University of Santo Tomas’ thrust to return to the finals remained alive on Sunday.
UST dodged elimination and neutralized National University’s twice-to-beat incentive with a 71-62 win at the final four round of the UAAP season 76 men’s basketball tournament at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
“We started aggressive. We didn’t want to let the community down,” said head coach Pido Jarencio. “Final four is a different story.”
It has been indeed a different story for the Tigers every time their season is on the line.
Another tremendous start, like against Ateneo last Wednesday, propelled to a huge buffer, as much as 18, in the first half against the topseeded NU.
But it wasn’t just Karim Abdul pouring the points as all the players contributed at least two points for the Tigers.
And down the stretch when UST’s 63-45 lead was down to five, 58-63, after a furious rally by NU, it was every bit of effort from the Tigers — from the extra pass and to even the taps — that carried them through.
“Ang pressure nasa kanila kasi kailangan mo magstay sa number 1. Kami, number 4, nag-aaspire na maging number 1,” Jarencio also said.
UST got a huge break when Bulldogs’ center Emmanuel Mbe bungled a slam off a fastbreak with four minutes to play, then Jeric Teng uncorked a triple to douse NU’s momentum from a 13-0 blast.
The Tigers, then, took advantage of all the Bulldogs’ missed shots down the stretch before Aljon Mariano canned four clutch freethrows.
Kevin Ferrer also stood tall anew against NU as he reprised his role as Bobby Ray Parks’ stopper, while connecting on almost all corners with four triples.
He finished with 14 points and five rebounds while pestering Parks all night.
“Yung shooting dumadating lang eh. Pinaghandaan ko talaga yung NU, tapos nagtulong-tulong kaming team,” said the sly Ferrer.
Jelo Alolino led NU, which is shooting for its first finals berth in more than 40 years, with 17 points and seven rebounds while Parks had 14.
NU and UST lock horns again in a knockout match for the finals berth on September 28.
Originally posted at 05:53 pm | Sunday, September 22, 2013