MANILA, Philippines—Kevin Ferrer hardly missed from the field and was the spark in University of Santo Tomas’ 82-76 victory over Ateneo in game one of the PCCL finals Tuesday at the San Juan Arena.
The lanky sophomore was all over the place, and finished with a game-best 18 points on 9-of-9 shooting from inside the arch for UST, which missed head coach Pido Jarencio.
His fingerroll on the break with 22 seconds off a stop left capped a telling 8-0 blast in the final two minutes of the game ,which kept the Tigers in the lead.
Starting from a delay of the game infraction by Ateneo, Jeric Fortuna made two technical free throws before Karim Abdul and Melo Afuang scored back-to-back buckets with 36.2 seconds.
The Tigers, though, took pride in their defense—but it was in the second half where they held Ateneo under 18 per quarter after a sloppy start.
“Sabi ko nga sa kanila, depensa magpapanalo sa’min, eh, at yun nga,” said assistant coach Estong Ballesteros, who took over for Jarencio, who had measles.
But the UAAP finalists didn’t take control until late in the game, and was even trailing, 70-73, with 2:25 on the clock.
“I give credit to the players, hindi sila bumitaw hanggang huli. Lahat nag-step up, patin yung ’di naman masyado nabibigyan ng playing time,” said Ballesteros.
Everyone from the Tigers side scored at least a point while four more others, aside from Ferrer, had double-digit outputs.
Ryan Buenafe, meanwhile, led Ateneo, which still had assistant coach Gabby Severino in charge, with 15 points and three rebounds.
Buenafe even tried to bring the Blue Eagle with 13.4 to go to trim the lead, 78-76, but UST was able to steer away from harm with two free throws from Jeric Teng.
Ateneo was even up by nine, 37-29, in the second quarter.
UST has a chance to win its first ever PCCL championship if it closes out on game two on Thursday—but Ateneo has come back from a 0-1 deficit before in 2010.
The Blue Eagles didn’t have luck on their side this game, as they were called for three delays of the game technical fouls—which awarded two FTs plus possession.