The University of Santo Tomas Growling Tigers narrowly edged the Far Eastern University Tamaraws, 69-67, to bag their first win of the UAAP Season 77 Men’s Basketball Tournament at the Araneta Coliseum.
Four quarters of basketball saw tight defense from both squads, resulting in a low-scoring 32-26 lead by the Growling Tigers at halftime. The third quarter opened to both squads upping the scoring ante, with UST leading scorers Kevin Ferrer and Kent Lao hitting outside shots to forward the Growling Tigers’ cause. FEU’s Mark Belo and Mike Tolomia responding in kind by leading an FEU offensive that managed to outscore the Tigers, 24-22 in the third quarter.
An intense fourth quarter saw both teams maintaining their aggression at both offense and defense, leading to an exchange of leads early in the period. Bolstered by Kevin Ferrer’s outside scoring, the Growling Tigers took a 64-62 lead with close to two minutes remaining on the clock. A 3-point trey from Ferrer would give UST the 67-62 edge, with two minutes remaining on the clock. FEU’s Russel Escoto responded with a three of his own to take FEU 65-67.
After a missed basket from UST, FEU would lose possession to UST’s Ed Dacuioag, who passed the ball to a speeding Kent Lao who managed to deliver on the fastbreak to give UST a comfortable 69-65 edge with seven seconds left. Mike Tolomia failed to sink a three pointer in the next few seconds and renew FEU’s hopes. The only shot FEU made after retaining possession in the final seconds of the game came from Russel Escoto would manage to hit a layup in the dying seconds, and bring the score to 69-67 just as the buzzer expired.
“Nag-prepare kami for this game. Na-execute ang gameplan namin. Nag-deliver ang mga bata.”, said UST coach Bong de la Cruz at the post-game press conference.
“Na-pagusapan namin ang mistakes ng last game, and now, napakita namin kung paano maglaro ang Tigers.” The Tigers lost last weekend’s season opener to the NU Bulldogs, 40-59.
Kevin Ferrer led the Growling Tigers with 18 points and 6 rebounds. Karim Abdul, the source of the Tigers’ ferocious defense in the paint had 16 points, 6 rebounds, and 3 assists, while late game hero Kent Lao had 14 points. Mark Belo led the Tamaraws with 19 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists, and a steal. Mike Tolomia contributed 14 points to the Tamaraws’ cause.
Both teams are currently at 1-1 in the season’s standings, the Tamaraws having won last week’s season opener against last year’s champions, the De la Salle University Green Archers. The Tigers’ next assignment will be against the Adamson University Soaring Falcons at the Mall of Asia Arena next Saturday, while the Tamaraws will be going up against the winless University of the Philippines Fighting Maroons the next day at the same venue.
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