The University of Santo Tomas (UST) Growling Tigers found their rhythm late in the final quarter to thrash the Mapua Institute of Technology (MIT) Cardinals, 78-59, in the early stages of the 2015 FilOil-Flying V Hanes Premier Cup, Tuesday afternoon at the FilOil-Flying V Arena in San Juan.
A close affair opened up the first quarter, with UST and MIT caught in an 8-all deadlock with less than five minutes left. Lead exchanges took place between the two squads, but neither could pull away to post huge leads. However, in the 1:15 mark of the quarter, the Growling Tigers were able to create lead of four points, 19-15. It was short lived, as MIT closed within one, 19-18, after a split free throw from forward Justin Serrano, with 20.3 ticks on the clock. The quarter ended with that.
Both teams were still struggling to post double-digit leads approaching the final minutes of the second frame, with MIT on top by just four, 27-23, with 4:18 left to play. Unfortunately, their lead didn’t last, as UST launched a 12-1 run to seize the lead, 35-28, with only 1:10 left before the break. MIT answered back with five straight points to end the first half close yet again, 35-33.
Another tight battle unfolded between UST and MIT come the third quarter. From a 35-33 deficit, Mapua took their offense inside the paint, scoring off layups and under-basket stabs courtesy of foreign student-athlete, Allwell Oraeme, and Carlos Isit to zoom to a 43-41 lead with 4:25 left. UST, meanwhile, ran back and initiated their offense behind Mario Bonleon and Jon Sheriff with their jumpers to grab the lead once more, 51-48, in closing out the third canto.
The España-based squad sustained the rhythm they captured in the previous quarter to pull away in the final quarter. From a slim 55-53 lead in the 6:27 mark, the Growling Tigers streaked to score 10 unanswered points, highlighted by three consecutive and-one layups from Bonleon with less than six minutes on the clock, to taste a double-digit lead for the first time, 65-53, with 4:39 left. From then on, the Growling Tigers did not allow MIT to crawl back and spark another run, outscoring their opponents 13-6 until the buzzer sounded.
UST head coach, Bong Dela Cruz, was satisfied with the adjustment his team made to eke out the victory. “Mabagal lang ‘yung pacing namin nung first half. Buti na lang nakapag-adjust ang mga players nung second half,” said Dela Cruz.
Bonleon paced all scorers with 22 points and 5 rebounds. Ed Daquioag scored 14, while Sheriff added 12, while shooting 6 of 12 from the field. Serrano and Isit had 13 and 11, respectively, to lead MIT in a losing effort.
UST will next face San Beda College Red Lions on Saturday, May 2, at 6 PM, while Mapua will have University of the East Red Warriors next Wednesday, at 1:30 PM. All games will still be held at the Filoil Flying V Arena.
UST (78) – Bonleon 22, Daquioag 14, Sheriff 12, Lee 9, Huang 6, Magno 5, Kakonda 2, Caunan 2, Faundo 2, Salvador 2, Furaque 2
MIT (59) – Serrano 13, Isit 11, Oraeme 10, Dela Rosa 5, Nimes 4, Neles 4, Brana 3, Villasenor 3, Que 2, Layug 2, Tubiano 2
Quarters: 19-18, 35-33, 51-48, 78-59