When University of Santo Tomas prepared for tits pivotal clash against De La Salle-Zobel, the Tiger Cubs knew that they needed to play good defense to nail a third straight win.
Both squads entered the match coming off wins albeit in totally different circumstances last Wednesday.
UST almost blew a 27-point lead as it survived FEU-Diliman 82-81 while DLSZ ripped UPIS 100-76.
The Tiger Cubs ultimately prevailed 75-62 over the Junior Archers but the Archer they specifically watched out for, Kieffer Alas, still stole the show with 27 points and 11 rebounds.
Indeed, you can’t put a good player down.
“Ang hirap talaga kasi naka-locate na kami sa kanya,” said coach Manu Iñigo. “Kaya lang, gifted talaga si Kieffer. Talagang malaki pa tapos may shooting pa tapos ang laking point guard.
“Talagang credit na lang sa boys. Isipin mo 27 na yung ginawa niya. Naka-locate na kami sa kanya. Pano pa kung di namin bantayan yan diba? So keep it up Kieffer!”
“Yung sa practices nga namin, siya talaga yung pino-point namin,” said Doy Dungo, who led UST with 13 points, six rebounds, and five assists.
“May ‘alas’ kami sa team. Yun yung naka-deny kami agad.”
One player who personified the Tiger Cubs’ focus on defense against Alas and his fellow Junior Archers was guard JB Lim.
Lim, who is 19 years old and came from College of San Benildo-Rizal, had a game-high eight steals to go along with his 10 points, seven rebounds, and three steals.
“Sinunod lang namin yung depensa na sinasabi ni coach,” he said. “Masaya ako dun dahil nagagawa namin yung mga depensang tinuturo sa amin. Pinaghirapan po namin. Kailangan i-apply namin sa totoong laro yan.
“Mas marami na siyang mai-i-snatch sa Recto,” said Iñigo in jest about his young protege’s defensive effort.
Now with a three-game winning streak after an opening-day loss to Adamson, UST seeks to strengthen its push for a Final Four and maybe a finals ticket down the road.
There will still be a lot of challenges but the Tiger Cubs have momentum on their side.
“Hindi pa rin kami satisfied kasi dami pa rin naming lapses talaga,” said Iñigo.
“Tapos pag lamang kami minsan, nag-iiba yung mindset ng players sa loob so kailangan pa naming pagtrabahuan talaga.”