Playing with everything to gain and nothing to lose, the University of the East Lady Warriors stormed back from 19 points down – capped by a clutch Joyce Francisco triple – to stun the University of Santo Tomas Growling Tigresses, 66-64, Tuesday afternoon at the Blue Eagle Gym in Quezon City.
The Lady Warriors, who were eliminated from playoff contention as early as the second game of the second round, snapped their four-game losing skid. And what a way to do so by upsetting the Growling Tigresses, who defeated them in the first round with a close 51-53 heartbreaker.
“Siyempre, big credit to the players, especially sa mga graduating players ko. Talagang nag-step sila! Sabi ko sa kanila, ‘Hindi porke’t tanggal na tayo sa Final Four, hindi na tayo maglalaro. Bigyan niyo kami ng experience na madadala namin next year,'” said Lady Warriors head coach Aileen Lebornio. “Yung mga rookie namin sana nakakuha ng magandang experience dahil dito.”
And they showed fight when the Growling Tigresses crumbled.
Down by one with just 10 seconds left, Lerbonio burned her last two timeouts to set up her play. And the Lady Warriors pulled it to perfection.
The Lady Warriors moved the ball from beyond the arc, looking for the right moment. Just as Grace Irebu locked in on Tin Cortizano, the latter found senior floor general Joyce Francisco, who drilled a long bomb from the top of the arc for the game-winner with 1.8 ticks to spare.
UST could not pull off an attempt as time expired.
“Blessed lang talaga dahil kinuha ni Irebu na tao si Cortizano. Pinagdadasal ko talaga na umangat siya. Nasunod yung play na ginawa namin dahil dun,” recalled Lebornio.
Franscisco, who was playing in her penultimate game with UE, finished with 17 points, eight rebounds, two assists, and the game-winner.
Down by as much as 19 points, 19-36, midway through the second frame, the Lady Warriors persevered. Behind Tin Cortizano’s eight points in the third canto, UE would go down by just two points entering the last 10 minutes of the contest.
Anna Requiron, another graduating player, scored 10 of her 17 points in the final frame to keep the Tigresses at bay. She grabbed 15 boards as well, to go along with four blocks.
This loss is a tough pill to swallow for the Growling Tigresses, who dropped to 7-6. Their game against the De La Salle University Lady Archers on Friday, November 16, at the Filoil Flying V Centre is now a must-win match for them to force a playoff for the fourth seed.
Tantoy Ferrer had a monster double-double for UST with 17 points and 17 rebounds while tallying three steals. Irebu had 14 points and 12 rebounds but shot just 6-of-15 from the field.
UST captain Sai Larosa had arguably her worst game this season, finishing with just eight points on 4-of-19 shooting – majority of which came at point-blank range in the final frame. She grabbed 15 rebounds and dished out six assists to compensate for her off game.
UE play their final game on the same day as UST’s do-or-die tilt, facing the University of the Philippines Lady Maroons.
“Siyempre against UP, gusto namin makuha yun. Hindi kami titigil na matuto. Sabi ko nga, ‘Nagsisimula na kami mag-invest para next season,’” Lebornio closed.
UE 66 — Francisco 17, Requiron 17, Cortizano 14. Ganade 5, A. Pedregosa 5, P. Pedregosa 4, Strachan 2, Nama 2, Borromeo 0.
UST 64 — Ferrer 17, Irebu 14, Capilit 10, Tacatac 9, Larosa 8, Sangalang 4, Aujero 2, Rivera 0, Portillo 0, Magat 0, Gonzales 0.
Quarterscores: 15-24, 26-41, 45-47, 66-64.
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