After a heart-breaking collapse against the ADMU Blue Eagles, the UE Red Warriors made sure there would be no disappointment against the slumping UST Growling Tigers. A balanced Red Warrior attack, paced by reserve Renz Palma’s 14 points, smothered the out-of-sync Tigers, 72-62, in a game more lopsided than the final score suggests. The Tigers wasted yet another good game from the resurgent Aljon Mariano, who led his team with a double-double of 21 points, on 12 shots, and 10 rebounds. UE’s victory snaps a 4-game losing streak and keeps their faint playoff hopes alive at 3-4, while backsliding UST’s third straight defeat leaves them with a middling 3-4 as well.
The Red Warriors, stinging from the most recent of their many late-game capitulations, put the Growling Tigers to the sword straight from the get-go. With UST’s dominant Cameroonian centre Karim Abdul missing in action due to illness, UE’s tower of power Charles Mammie went to work in the paint. Mammie’s 8 points, on a perfect 3-3 shooting, powered the energetic Warriors to a 19-11 first quarter lead.
The second stanza saw more of the same from UE. With Mammie taking his usual breather, his front-court partners Chris Javier and Moustapha Arafat continued the Warriors’ supremacy in the shaded lane with 9 combined points. Meanwhile, the misfiring Tigers would conspire to go scoreless for 8:05 of the second quarter. Aljon Mariano broke UST’s streak of misfortune with 2 free throws, and immediately proceed to sink the Tigers’ only field goal of the quarter. Mariano’s 4 points were all his hapless team could manage in the second quarter, as UE pulled away from UST to end the half, 32-15.
The Warriors would well and truly break away from the Tigers in the third. The seldom-used Renz Palma exploded for all of his 14 points in the quarter, scoring a ridiculous 1 point per minute of play. The only black mark in UE’s exemplary 28-point third period was an injury scare to superstar point guard Roi Sumang. With 5 minutes to go in the third, Sumang, who was orchestrating the UE attack behind 8 points and 5 assists, fell awkwardly on a layup attempt. After a few nervous minutes for the Warriors faithful, the diagnosis was a mild ankle sprain. Even with their leader sidelined, UE continued to press the Tigers, limiting them to only 16 points in the quarter. The Warriors would enter the final period up a ridiculous 29 points, nearly doubling up UST’s output, 60-31.
A 14-0 UST surge to start the fourth quarter would strike fear into the hearts of the vocal UE fans in attendance. Kevin Ferrer, still mired in the midst of a disastrous personal campaign, nailed a three to draw the Growling Tigers to within 15 points of the Warriors, 60-45. With UE again threatening to dissolve in the face of pressure, Roi Sumang was seen lacing up his shoes in preparation for a nervy last 6 minutes. His services would not be required. UE’s Pedrito Galanza, who finished with 9 points, fuelled an 8-0 run to quell UST’s momentum and effectively put the result beyond in doubt. With 2 minutes to go in the game, and UE up a comfortable 18 points, the Warriors bench came in, signalling the end of the contest. UST’s starters continued to fight against the inevitable, but UE would prevail 72-62.