On the day he was named as the league’s top player, University of Santo Tomas big man Soulemane Chabi Yo showed he’s ready to take the Growling Tigers to greater heights in UAAP Season 82.
The Tigers rode on the shoulders of the newly minted Most Valuable Player from Benin as they repulsed the Far Eastern University Tamaraws, 81-71, on Wednesday night to forge a duel with University of the Philippines in the next phase of the stepladder semifinals of the men’s basketball tournament at Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Motivated by a bigger goal of helping UST win a first title since 2006, Chabi Yo made his first seven shots on the way to a career-high tying 25 points that went with 11 rebounds.
Brent Paraiso and Renzo Subido hit five triples each as the Tigers built enough cushion to weather a second-half surge by the Tamaraws, who nearly erased a 26-point halftime deficit before fading down the stretch.
UST coach Aldin Ayo heaped praises on the 6-foot-6 Chabi Yo, the first Most Valuable Player from UST since Dylan Ababou in 2009.
“He’s not going to slow down,” Ayo said of his prized big man. “When he said he’s going to give the school a championship, he really means it. I’m a little bit worried because he played extended minutes, but he kept on telling me that this was a do-or-die game and he wanted to be on the floor.”
Chabi Yo was nearly unstoppable in the first half, pouring 19 of his output with a wide array of moves inside the paint. His early explosion also left FEU center Barkley Eboña frustrated, leading to a disqualifying foul with more than a minute remaining in the first half, which ended with the Tigers holding a commanding 54-28 advantage.
But while the Tigers came out firing on all cylinders, hitting six of their first seven triples, they scrambled at the finish as the Tamaraws found their stride in the third period.
The Tigers now face the second-seeded Fighting Maroons in the next round, with UP holding a twice-to-beat advantage starting Sunday. UST has already beaten UP twice in the elimination round.
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