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Haydee Ong looks back on three-year odyssey with UST

Haydee Ong was left speechless last Sunday.

After three years with University of Santo Tomas, the decorated mentor finally fulfilled her promise to her Alma Mater — to lead them to the Finals.

“First, papasalamat ako kay Lord. We’ve waited for three years for this to happen,” said Ong after Grace Irebu ended the Growling Tigressess’ 13-year Finals drought with their 76-65 win over Far Eastern University that punched their ticket to the Finals.

“Our program had no shortcuts.”

Three years ago, Ong, who spent seven years with Ateneo prior, inherited a team that finished fifth — a team whom Adamson had knocked out in a playoff game.

Though she had solid student-athletes like Jhenn Angeles and Sai Larosa — and later on Grace Irebu — the Growling Tigresses could not break the semis barrier. For two straight years, UST were eliminated by FEU.

UAAP-81-Women-FEU-vs.-UST-Larosa-9005 Haydee Ong looks back on three-year odyssey with UST Basketball News UAAP UST  - philippine sports news

Still, her program persevered.

“Just like what coach Haydee said, our very first day in UST, we wanted this. Behind the scenes, there were a lot of people who worked hard for this,” said Ong’s assistant coach Arsenio Disangco.

“From the top to the bottom, everyone contributed in this. Our supporters never gave up on us.”

Third time was the charm as UST finally overcame FEU, ending the school’s 13-year Finals drought.

The last time UST was in the Finals was back in Season 69. Back then, the team had the legendary Peque Tan as head coach, with players like Rem Buenacosa and Marichu Bacaro. The league featured a stacked field, with UST, FEU, and, yes, Ong’s Ateneo ending the elims all on top.

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This time, though, there has been one alpha dog in the league for the last five years — the NU Bulldogs.

But just like Tan’s squad, Ong looks to replicate that feat and shake the collegiate scene once more.

UAAP-82-WBB-UST-vs.-FEU-Irebu-2781 Haydee Ong looks back on three-year odyssey with UST Basketball News UAAP UST  - philippine sports news

“We worked hard for this. This is a tribute to the Thomasian community. So this is all for them. And of course, to the players, the seniors played their heart out,” said Ong.

“Yes, coach Peque was my coach back then. All I can say [is that] we will do our best and have a good result.”

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