The first round of basketball in UAAP Season 75 has come to an end, and as many people know right now. The UST Growling Tigers finished the 1st round in 1st place at 6-1. Though they are tied with the Ateneo Blue Eagles who also finished the 1st round at 6-1, the Tigers are on top by virtue of their 71-70 victory against the Blue Eagles last July 19. The Tigers’ only defeat in the first round came at the hands of the FEU Tamaraws on opening day last July 14, 72-73 on a RR Garcia layup off the steal. But after that setback, they went on a tear and won the last six games of the 1st round.
They are also dubbed the “Comeback Team” of the UAAP, as most of their victories came off large deficits. In the game against the Ateneo Blue Eagles, the Tigers trailed by as many as 19 points in the 1st half, but the Tigers led by returning forward Aljon Mariano came alive in the 3rd quarter and manage to pull off the victory and snap a 12 game losing streak against the Eagles dating back from 2007. Then in the game against the NU Bulldogs, the Tigers trailed by as many as 14 points, but the Tigers led by Jeric Teng were able to grabe a 77-71 victory over the Bulldogs. Then in the final game of the first round against Adamson Soaring Falcons, the Tigers struggled and trailed by as many as 9 thanks in part to the Faclons’ suffocating defense, and were down by 6, 54-60 with 3:22 left in the game. But the Tigers came back on a basket by sophomore Kevin Ferrer, a three by veteran point guard Jeric Fortuna and a basket by big man Karim Abdul to escape with a 61-60 victory over the Falcons.
Of all the games in the first round, there was one game that I was able to watch live at the venue, and that was the game against the De La Salle Green Archers on August 4 at the new Mall of Asia Arena which featured the battle of the Teng brothers. As UST’s Jeric faced off against his younger brother DLSU’s Jeron. The game was a treat, both teams battled neck-to-neck in the 1st half. UST made their run in the 3rd quarter on Clark Bautista’s triples to give them a 56-48 lead at the end of 3. But La Salle made their run in the 4th taking a 71-69 lead against the Tigers in the final moments of the 4th, but Aljon Mariano scored a basket which tied the game at 71. La Salle’s veteran point guard L.A. Revilla scored a basket at the buzzer, but the replay showed that his shot came after time expired. So the game went into overtime and once again both teams were neck-to-neck. With the game tied at 80, UST had a chance to win but they failed to do so. So the game went into another overtime period. La Salle scored first on a Revilla jumper, but Mariano responded with 2 baskets to give them a 84-82 lead. The Archers had two chances, the first one was Yutien Andrada inside shot which was blocked by Karim Abdul, and the second one was Revilla’s last second three which came up short as the Tigers held on for the win 84-82 in double-overtime.
It will be a challenge for these Tigers to finish the eliminations strong and get a better positioning for the Final Four, but as they say. The sky is the limit for this team and it’s up to them if they are going to bring the title back to España for the first time since 2006 during Coach Pido Jarencio’s rookie season as the coach of the Tigers and featured players like Dylan Ababou, Jojo Duncil, Jervy Cruz, Japs Cuan, Anthony Espiritu, Allan Evangelista, Mark Canlas and Jun Cortez.
VIVA SANTO TOMAS!
ONE FOR UST!
GO USTe! Go! Go! Go! Go!