21,933 fans were witnesses to one of the greatest UAAP Finals performance of all time.
After a horrible first half by next season’s hosts, University of Santo Tomas senior Kevin Ferrer drove his team forward, scoring 24 third quarter points to give the Growling Tigers the lead and the confidence to send the series to a winner-take-all Game Three. Making the necessary stops in the end, UST were able to escape the Far Eastern Tamaraws, 62-56, early Saturday evening in Game Two of the UAAP Men’s Basketball Finals at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
The coach Nash Racela-mentored squad used the same starting line-up they utilized in Game One while the Growling Tigers replaced Kent Lao for Louie Vigil in the starting five. The Tamaraws started strong for an early 5-2 lead behind Ron Dennison and Achie Inigo. UST was able to gain the lead behind Kevin Ferrer’s and Ed Daquioag’s slashing that led to free throws and a momentarily lead. After excellent stops that led to a timeout by Nash Racela, the Tamaraws held their opponents to just a single point for the next four minutes, while Mac Belo scored four straight points. Moreover, the Green-and-Gold were able to slap Karim Abdul with his third foul with 57.2 remaning. The Tamaraws ended the quarter strong for a 20-13 lead to end the first quarter.
The second frame was an offensive struggle for both squads. After baskets by Kent Lao and Daquioag that cut the FEU lead to just two, Pogoy regained his touch from downtown in knocking down two consecutive triples that extended the lead to 26-20. Both teams were then held field goal-less in the last five minutes and 17 seconds of the half with free throws by Belo and Tolomia helping extend the FEU lead to nine, 30-21, to enter the break.
In a moment that will forever be enshrined in UAAP history, Kevin Ferrer changed the complexion of the game in exploding for 24 third quarter points, a UAAP record. After two consecutive turnovers by Tolomia, Ferrer knocked down to charities to cut the lead to just seven. 23 seconds later, rookie Zachy Huang screened out Ferrer’s defender for his first triple of the game. Daquioag was then able to find Ferrer for another triple over Pogoy and Russel Escoto to cut the FEU lead to just one. After a split on the charity stripe by Belo, Abdul was able to find UST’s team captain for a catch-and-shoot triple that gave UST a 32-31 lead. A turnover by Pogoy less than a minute later then lead to Ferrer banking in his fourth three-pointer in the quarter. A baseline drive by Pogoy for a reverse layup momentarily halted the momentum but was quickly answered by a Daquioag find to Ferrer for his fifth three to extend the UST lead to five, 38-33, with 5:48 remaining. After conversions by Belo that cut the lead to just three, UST’s Smart Elite ambassador posted up Ron Dennison for an easy lay-in. Ferrer’s rampage continued as he was able to shake-off Dennison after a jab step for a corner three to extend the lead to eight, 45-37. Ferrer capped his insane third quarter run with a jumper that gave UST a ten-point lead. As Ferrer sat down to take a breather with 1:55 remaining, a three-point play by Jose and a split by Tolomia cut the lead to just six, 41-47. In addition, the Tamaraws were able to gain Ferrer’s fourth foul before the quarter ended.
The Tamaraws went on a 7-3 run to start the final quarter that cut the lead to just two with 7:22 left. At the 6:13 mark, Belo was able to find Jose for a floater to tie the game at 50-all. Tolomia then broke the deadlock after a lookaway pass to Jose underneath for an easy put-in. Finally, Jose capitalized on a defensive lapse by Abdul that led to a timeout. However, a scary moment occurred for the FEU faithful as Pogoy was brought out of the game due to cramps. A split on the stripe by Abdul and a midrange jumper by Vigil again gave UST the lead, 55-54, with 2:37 left. Tolomia, who has been struggling all game, then missed a triple that led to free throws by Abdul. Misses by Belo and Tolomia compounded FEU’s problem but turnovers by UST still gave them the chance to close-out the series. Affter another Tolomia miss with 33 seconds left, a split on the stripe by Daquioag made the game a two-possession ballgame while conversions by Abdul and Ferrer on the foul stripe sealed the game for the Espana cagers, 62-56.
“Nung first game kasi nawala yung pag-enjoy ng game,” coach Bong Dela Cruz said after the game. “Naibalik namin yun at nag-enjoy kami muli mag-depensa.” Moreover, Dela Cruz added that the defense and mental toughness of the Growling Tigers returned in this game.
For Kevin Ferrer, who tied his career-high 29 points on 50% shooting from the field and grabbed ten boards, he said that they went into the game with a positive vibe. “Nag-usap kami na positive lang and just enjoy.”
On his out-of-body run in the third quarter, Ferrer disclosed that, “nag-umpisa iyon sa free throws at naramdaman ko na lang na mainit na ako.” He then credited his teammates in saying, “binigyan lang ako ng kumpiyansa ng teammates ko na tumira.”
Abdul, who tallied 11 points on 70% shooting from the foul stripe and had six boards, said that the physicality of the game was too much “but I just have to keep on moving on offense and avoid fouls.”
Ed Daquioag also made up for a dismal first game in scoring ten points but was just 3/13 from the field.
For FEU, Mac Belo led all Tamaraws in scoring with another double-double. He had 16 markers and 11 boards. He was 4/9 from the field and 8/13 from the stripe. Pogoy added 12 points on just 25% shooting in 24 minutes of action. The other member of FEU’s Big Three Mike Tolomia had a forgettable outing as he went 0/15 from the field with all of his seven points coming from the charity stripe.
Both teams shot horribly from the field with UST shooting 29% while FEU was just 27%. Fortunately for UST, they only committed seven turnovers compared to the Tamaraws’ 16 turnovers that led to a 14-5 advantage in turnover points. Finally, the Growling Tigers were able to convert on four more triples compared to the Tams that proved to be the difference in the game.
A winner-take-all Game Three between the UST Growling Tigers and the FEU Tamaraws will take place on Wednesday, December 2 at 3:30pm. The game is set to be held at the SM Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City.
UST (62) – Ferrer 29, Abdul 11, Daquioag 10, Vigil 5, Bonleon 3, Lao 2, Lee 2, Faundo 0, Huang 0, Sheriff 0.
FEU (56) – Belo 16, Pogoy 12, Jose 9, Tolomia 7, Inigo 5, Orizu 3, Tamsi 2, Dennison 2, Escoto Ru. 0, Arong 0, Escoto Ri. 0, Trinidad 0.
Quarterscores: 13-20, 21-30, 47-41, 62-56.
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