A dream was realized by the thousands of Thomasian students and alumni, as for the first time in six years. The UST Growling Tigers are back in the UAAP Finals for Men’s Basketball, and they faced off against no less than the team they defeated the last time they were in this scenario, the current four-time reigning champions, the Ateneo Blue Eagles. The players may have been different from the time these two teams last faced off in the Finals, but the feeling is still there. It was a dream for me to see the Tigers on the hunt for the UAAP title in my Thomasian student life. I’m happy it has finally happened on my third year at the university.
I was one of the lucky 20,686 in attendance at the Mall of Asia Arena who got to witness the very first game of this great series. Even though I was seated in the General Admission section of the arena, I still had a good view of the game and it was all worth the three hour wait that me and my friends had to go through to get tickets for the game. Notable people were there as former UST and Ateneo players from their battle in 2006 were featured. People like UST’s Dylan Ababou, Jervy Cruz, Japs Cuan, Jojo Duncil as well as Ateneo’s JC Intal, Doug Kramer, Macky Escalona, Chris Tiu to name a few. Even La Salle’s Jeron Teng came out to support his older brother Jeric.
The game was a treat, a beautiful game from the start as in the 1st half, the Tigers were bringing their A-game on the Eagles and at halftime, UST was leading 38-31. However, in the second half the Eagles went on a 17-0 blitz to take the lead heading in to the 4th quarter. In the 4th, the Tigers living up to their moniker as the “Comeback Cats” of the UAAP made another comeback from a 10 point deficit at the end of the 3rd, Taking a 64-63 lead on a Karim Abdul dunk. However, the Eagles would not be denied from that point despite a furious run by the Tigers, as the Eagles escape with a Game 1 victory 83-78 taking them to a 1-0 lead in the series and a victory away from their 5th straight UAAP title in men’s basketball.
Nico Salva had a career night for the Blue Eagles scoring 30 points on an excellent shooting night for the graduating forward and last year’s Finals MVP. Kiefer Ravena only scored 13 points, however he sank the dagger shot which sealed the victory for the Eagles. Guard Juami Tiongson added 12 points and Ryan Buenafe scored 10 points.
Jeric Teng led the Tigers with 25 points, while Aljon Mariano added 22 points and 11 rebounds. Kevin Ferrer scored 13 points. While Karim Abdul was only limited to 9 points before fouling out in the final seconds of the game. On a side note, forward Melo Afuang was sidelined at the hospital and missed the game.
UST (78) – Teng 25, Mariano 22, Ferrer 13, Abdul 9, Fortuna 4, Lo 3, Pe 2, Bautista 0.
ADMU (83) – Salva 30, Ravena 13, Tiongson 12, Buenafe 10, Chua 9, Slaughter 5, Gonzaga 2, Elorde 2, Sumalinog 0, Golla 0.
Quarter-by-quarter scores: 24-18, 38-31, 51-61, 78-83
With these great statlines and moments, the game’s finish was marred with controversy. The last two calls of the game, one was about Karim Abdul’s fifth and final foul which was shown on the replay drew flak among the UST gallery on had at the venue as Abdul had a clean swipe of the ball on Kiefer Ravena who selled the call well, and the second call in which Jeric Teng shot a three pointer over Ryan Buenafe in which the referee signaled for a foul, yet no free throws were given. As the final buzzer sounded off, UST coach Pido Jarencio showed his disappointment with the calls of the referees and the whole UST gallery inside the arena were jeering the referees. Let’s make that clear, the UST gallery were not jeering the Blue Eagles and the Ateneo gallery inside thearena.
At the post-game interview, coach Pido Jarencio showed his disappointment over the bad calls. Here are some quotes from his interview.
“I’m not against Ateneo. Pero bakit ganun? Unfair naman sa min, dahil UST lang kami ganun ang tawagan? Sana ayusin nila. Kundi baka magkaroon ng people power dito.”
“Sa akin, basta kami nag-e-enjoy lang kami. We enjoy the game. Ako positive ako sa team namin. Binigyan namin ng magandang laban ang Ateneo. Pero wag naman ganun. Sa atin lang, parehas naman tayo lumaban. Sana kung tinuturuan ko yung mga player na saktan mo ito. Saktan mo iyan, duraan mo ito, duraan mo iyan. Tayo fair and square ang laban natin. Yung mga players, kaya mahal ako niyan at kaya mahal ko rin sila, kung ano yung tinuro ko, yun ang nilalabas nila. Walang kalokohan. Walang bahid na pagdududa sa mga tinuturo ko. Kaya yung mga players ang puso buong buo.”
“Second coming. Tapos na nung elimination, may pangalawa na naman. Ganito na naman. Nakakasawa rin”
“No, walang complaint. Basta ako umakyat ako, bumunot ako ng referee as sinabi ko sa kanila. Physical game ito Let the players decide the game not the referees.”
“Ang ninipis ng tawag, ang kakapal ng mukha. Sana marinig lang din nila ako. Eh kasi naaawa ako sa mga estudyante babayad 250, pipila madaling araw. Ala una ng madaling araw nandyan na para mapanood lang kami. Mapanood Ateneo-UST game tapos gaganunin lang. De-deprive kami ng fair officiating. Bahala na sila. Ma-ko-konsensya din yang lintik na yun.”
People had mixed reactions with Coach Jarencio’s statement, some showed sympathy with him. While others called him a “sore loser” for the statement he made with the media. But as we know, coach Jarencio did not have complaints on officiating until this game which has higher stakes than a elimination round game.
Coming off from a perspective of a Thomasian student who watch the games for the love of basketball. Even though the game did not end in UST’s favor, It was still a “good” game. Both the Tigers and the Eagles gave their hearts out all game long and the fact I still have a lot of respect for the Ateneo community knowing I have friends having their education with the university. However, the game could have been “great” if not for all the bad calls whether the game ended with an Ateneo victory or a UST victory. What all Thomasians want is “One Clean Fight!”and we hope that in Game 2 when Ateneo is just a victory away from a five-peat and UST hoping to force a winner-take-all Game 3, we get a clean and great game. I’m sure if Ateneo ended up in the same situation, they’ll also show their disappointment with the outcome.
Game 2 of the UAAP Finals will be played at the Smart Araneta Coliseum on October 11, Thursday. TV coverage begins at 3pm on Studio 23. If the Blue Eagles win, they will clinch their 5th consecutive UAAP title. However, if the Growling Tigers win, they will force a winner-take-all Game 3 on October 13, Saturday back at the Mall of Asia Arena.
Remember, the Tigers this season had not lost at the Smart Araneta Coliseum. They are at 7-0 which included their 71-70 first round victory against the Blue Eagles, and in the 2006 UAAP Finals. Ateneo took Game 1, but UST came back to win the next two games on their way to their first UAAP basketball title since 1996 when they capped of their version of a four-peat with legendary coach Aric del Rosario who is now calling the shots for the Perpetual Altas of the NCAA.
Ironically, I was in 1st year high school when UST and Ateneo squared off in the UAAP Finals in 2006 and I chose the Blue Eagles to win the title. But as we know, fate had other things in mind. Now, six years later, I’m a Thomasian student rooting for the Tigers to win this season. We know that these guys have what it takes to bounce back from adversity.
BELIEVE! KEEP THE FAITH! NEVER SAY DIE!
Go USTe! One for UST! Viva Santo Tomas!
We are Fueled for UST!