After a crushing Game One loss, the University of the East seniors did not allow their careers to end on Saturday afternoon, leading the Lady Warriors’ fourth quarter in a 69-62 victory of the University of Santo Tomas Growling Tigresses to advance to the Finals.
This is UE’s first Finals appearance in 49 years. The Lady Warriors will take on defending champions National University Lady Bulldogs, a team that is in the midst of a 62-game winning streak, in a best-of-three series starting on Wednesday, November 29.
“Nagpapasalamat ako sa mga players ko. Dun ko nakita yung five years na pinaghirapan namin. Nung natalo kami nung game one, sabi ko kailangan natin bumangon. Hindi tayo puwedeng paatras, kailangan pausbong tayo,” a grateful coach Aileen Lebornio said.
The Lady Warriors had to dig deep, however, clawing back from a nine-point deficit to start the final frame.
“Alam ng mga bata na nagsikap tayo. Sabi ko last year, alam ko na mag-chachampionship tong mga to,” added Lebornio.
Locking down on defense, the Lady Warriors went on an 11-0 run capped by a triple by Joyce Francisco to give UE their first lead since the opening quarter, 58-56.
Francisco tallied 14 points to go along with six rebounds.
Kikay Gandalla was able to end the UST drought with a three of her own, but the Lady Warriors kept pushing. The troika of Love Sto. Domingo, Eunique Chan, and Ruthlaine Tacula were able to extend the lead to 69-62.
Sto. Domingo topped UE with 18 points and 12 rebounds, while Chan — who was saddled with foul trouble in Game One — finished with 16 points and 11 rebounds. Floor general Ruthlaine Tacula glued things together by dishing out eight dimes.
“We were not getting the calls that they were giving UE. They had 35 free throws,” said second-year UST head coach Haydee Ong as UE went 26-of-35 from the stripe. UST, on the other hand, went 11-for-19.
However, with the emotions running high, the two teams figured in an almost bench-clearing brawl with four seconds remaining.
With the Lady Warriors inbounding the ball, Sai Larosa shoved Sto. Domingo based on the replays that instigated the brawl. UE’s bench players Marieny Cea, Princess Pedrogosa, and Erica Ebeza left their side resulting in their ejection, while Larosa was also kicked out of the court for throwing a punch. The fouls on Cea, Pedregosa, and Ebeza were then compounded into one free throw based on the rules.
Anhel Anies ended her UAAP career with 16 points, scoring all of her buckets in the first half. Larosa chipped in 16 markers as well, scoring 13 points in the third quarter.
Together with Anies, Bets Penaflor, Tata Jerez, Jhenn Angeles, and Marielle Isanan played their final game with UST as well.
UE (69) – Sto. Domingo 18, Chan 16, Francisco 14, Tacula 8, Cortizano 7, Ramos 4, Requiron 2, Gayacao 0, Antonio 0, Nama 0.
UST (62) – Anies 16, Larosa 16, Gandalla 9, Angeles 7, Rivera 4, Peñaflor 3, Jerez 3, Sanggalang 2, Isanan 2, Aujero 0, Portillo 0, Magat 0, Manuel 0, Valera 0.
Quarterscores: 10-16, 27-35, 47-56, 69-62