Born and raised in Chicago, Illinois, the decision to play for University of Santo Tomas was all worth it for Nikki Villasin.
The 5-foot-3 point guard etched her name in the Growling Tigresses’ lore in the final seconds of her final game in the UAAP on Wednesday afternoon.
In front of a loud crowd of almost 2,000 accompanied by a full drumline by UST and its foe National University, Villasin topped the Tigresses’ rally from 14 down in the fourth quarter with the go-ahead layup that turned out to be the shot that ended the Lady Bulldogs’ seven-season dynasty in UAAP women’s basketball.
Tied at 69 with around 20 seconds left in the game, National U went to Stef Berberabe, who took a short jumper but missed, paving the way for THE shot.
UST’s Kent Pastrana grabbed the rebound and found Rocel Dionisio near halfcourt, taking a dribble before seeing Villasin way ahead of the pack on the Tigresses’ side of the court for the 71-69 lead that proved to be the final scoreline.
“Honestly, it just got really quiet, it was just me and the basket,” shared the two-and-through playmaker from North Park University on her moment that would be remembered for a while.
“I saw my teammate Rocel had the ball, she gave me a quick look, and I scanned the floor and I was like, ‘If I make this, it’s over like I’m gonna win it’ and literally right when I went to the hoop I looked back and I was like, ‘Oh my god! We just won.'”
The Lady Bulldogs called for a timeout, allowing head coach Aris Dimaunahan to draw what could have been a game-tying or game-winning shot. They went to last year’s Finals MVP Tin Cayabyab at the three-point line but her shot was way short, marking the start of a new reign in the UAAP women’s basketball world.
The Growling Tigresses are now the queens, their first time to sit on the throne in 17 years or since they won the Season 69 trophy back in 2006.
Villasin, who rose to the occasion late second round all the way to the clincher, knew that her team was gonna win it after making that transition layup because of her trust in their defense.
“I knew we were gonna play defense, I did not doubt our defense, and it just kind of fulfilled like what I told Coach Haydee,” said Villasin, who had 12 points, four rebounds, two assists, a steal, and a block in her last dance.
“We had some bumps in the road this season, so I told her you know I got you, like no matter what. I told her we’re gonna win it, it doesn’t matter what we’re gonna run into this season, we’re gonna finish it out strong. So that was a very fulfilling moment,” she furthered.
Playing thousands of miles away from home, Villasin’s trip back to the Philippines was all worth it. More so that when she decided to commit to UST, this was what she envisioned.
She imagined this ending before, that if she will join the Growling Tigresses, it would be so meaningful as this – a dynasty-ending shot and a championship.
“I shoot that shot every day at practice, so I already knew and I had already seen that shot a long time ago in my head when I first came to the Philippines and I wanted to win the UAAP, so it was almost a ‘reps remove doubt’ kind of moment for me, so it was good.”