Deja vú. The University of the Philippines and University of Santo Tomas second round match played out the same as their first round encounter; UP Head Coach Rey Madrid was punished for complaining about refereeing, and the snake-bitten Growling Tigers used a 4th quarter surge to put away a plucky Fighting Maroons squad. In the absence of injured gunners Kevin Ferrer and Ed Daquioag, UST Head Coach Bong Dela Cruz called the number of increasingly utilized reserve Regie Basibas, and Basibas delivered with panache. The swingman unexpectedly led his team with a Herculean 16 points and 18 boards, 8 on the offensive glass. UP point-man Mikee Reyes threatened to replicate his round 1 heroics against Adamson with 19 points in 3 quarters, but fizzled in the fourth en route to a game-high 22 points for the Maroons. The 5-5 Growling Tigers, who notched their 16 straight win against UP, lurk just outside the playoff positions, while the 1-9 Fighting Maroons can only regret a missed opportunity to earn win #2.
From the outset, the Tigers took advantage of their superior height and athleticism against the Maroons. Multiple offensive caroms, hauled in primarily by the quick-jumping Basibas, gave the UST squad a variety of looks near the hoop, which they converted into 20 points in the quarter. Defensively, the Growling Tigers’ length gave the Maroons fits, limiting them to only 11 points. Rambunctious UP Head Coach Rey Madrid adjudged the Tigers’ defence to be illegal in nature, and a questionable no-call on a Diego Dario drive near the end of the opening salvo set off the fireworks. Madrid unrelentingly lambasted the officiating with colourful Filipino profanities, earning two consecutive technical fouls and an early ejection. Their Head Coach’s expulsion appeared to invigorate the UP squad, Mikee Reyes in particular. Reyes poured in 17 points over 2 quarters for the Maroons, who in total scored 42 points in the second and third stanzas to take a brief 53-51 lead with only seconds to go in the third. With only a third of a tick left on the clock, Aljon Mariano buried a clutch triple from just past half-court, handing the Tigers the slimmest of margins with only the fourth to play. From there it was a painful flashback to the Tigers’ and Maroons’ first round matchup, as UST blasted UP’s league-worst defence with 23 points. Regie Basibas again starred for the Tigers in the final canto, dropping 8 crunch-time points. UST’s powerful centre Karim Abdul also feasted on UP’s foul-burdened frontline. The burly big man rubbed salt in the Maroons’ wounds with 8 fourth quarter points, highlighted by a meaningless dunk at the end of regulation.
Karim Abdul was predictably fantastic against the undersized UP lineup, finishing with 21 points, 12 rebounds and 4 rejections, although he uncharacteristically turned the ball over a wince-inducing 8 times. Aljon Mariano’s shooting woes were again on display, but the UST shooter still managed 13 points on 40% from beyond the arc. Fellow marksman Louie Vigil was also largely off-target, needing 11 shots to produce 11 points. The Maroons got surprise contributions from Moriah Gingerich and substitute sparkplug Diego Dario. Gingerich, often an after-thought in Rey Madrid’s offense, tossed in 9 points for the Maroons. Dario too scored 9, but, remarkably, in only 13 minutes of action. UP’s big-name players, the sweet-shooting Rey Gallarza and former ROY Kyles Lao, failed to meet expectations, combining for only 10 points on 20% shooting.