National University is truly a UAAP Women’s Basketball dynasty, having won seven straight championships.
However, if there is one team that knows how to beat the Lady Bulldogs in a high-stakes battle, it’s the University of Santo Tomas.
The Growling Tigresses have already defeated the Lady Bulldogs in a UAAP championship game, just last May in the Season 85 3×3 title match.
Although 5-on-5 and 3×3 are two different sports altogether, the schools’ players suited up for both disciplines.
On Wednesday, UST proved that it can also win against National U in the full-court game, securing a 76-72 victory to take Game One of the Season 86 best-of-three Finals.
Unlike the three-a-side game, the Growling Tigresses need to win two games to clinch the championship here.
However, graduating players Tacky Tacatac and Tantoy Ferrer know what it takes to finish the job, having been part of the 3×3 squad that took down NU.
“Ngayon kinontrol namin yung emosyon namin kasi nung mga nakaraang laro namin laban sa NU at UP, parang nag-celebrate kami ng maaga kaya natatalo pa kami, pero ngayon, natuto na talaga kami,” said Tacatac, who contributed 14 points, including 11 in the fourth period.
Leading by eight with 3:30 left in the game, the Lady Bulldogs threatened to come back, but the Growling Tigresses learned to respond after squandering leads before, including a 20-point meltdown against the Fighting Maroons in the Final Four.
Ferrer, a do-it-all forward, shared that as seniors, it is her, Tacatac, and Eka Soriano’s job to ensure that their teammates enter the game with the right mindset.
UST has nine players who are either freshmen or sophomores.
“Palagi naman naming sinasabi sa mga teammates namin, sa mga rookies at sophomores, lagi namin silang ginaguide na kailangan mature kayo pag nasa laro na; iba kasi kapag nasa practice, iba pag in game,” said Ferrer, who did not play in the 5-on-5 tournament last season due to an ACL injury.
“Sinasabi ko sa kanila na mag-meditate kayo, wala kayong ibang papakinggan kundi si coach at yung payo namin. Execute lang lahat ng pinapagawa nila coach,” she continued.
Ferrer unloaded 13 points, 14 rebounds, five assists, and two steals.
With the Growling Tigresses already in the championship series, everything must be left on the court to have a chance against the Lady Bulldogs, who once had a 108-game winning streak in the league, along with a 20-game winning run against UST.
“Kapag pinasok talaga sa court, nireremind namin sila na all-out talaga, all effort ilabas niyo kahit ilang minuto lang ‘yan or segundo lang ‘yan, kailangan buhos talaga lahat walang ititira,” said Tacatac.
UST will go for the jugular on Sunday at 12:00 PM at the SMART Araneta Coliseum.
If they win, it will be the Tigresses’ first title since 2006.