Last Saturday, on a rainy day across entire metropolis with Typhoon Lando bound to hit Luzon bringing heavy rains and gusty winds over the horizon. It was an opportunity for me to do something I haven’t done in the last three years. Watch my beloved UST Growling Tigers live in action.
The last time I watched the game, I witnessed my beloved Alma Mater lose in a two game sweep in their best of three finals series. As the victor celebrated a fifth straight championship. Since then, I was limited to watching the games on the television. Along that period, I’ve seen them come back for another crack on the title. But falling short in a epic three game series that featured a brother vs brother match-up. Then the following season, they fell down from heaven to a tough season which saw them miss the train to the Final Four.
Now, on that stormy Saturday afternoon in Pasay, I was back in the venue rooting for my Alma Mater. It was my first UST game since I became an alumnus of the university, and the first game I watched where their opponent is not named Ateneo nor La Salle.
The weather never bothered me to get to the game. The only thing I had to deal with along the way was my wet shoe as I went with me trip from home to the Mall of Asia Arena.
But before I get to see the Tigers play once again, there was the game between Ateneo and Adamson. The Soaring Falcons fought hard in that game, but the Blue Eagles found the breaks in the end game to seal the victory.
Then came the moment of truth, it’s game time for the Growling Tigers of España. They faced the National University Bulldogs. The lone team that they lost to in the first round of the tournament. Where they lost by a solitary point. It was their chance to get back from the defeat and pick up another victory.
Of course with every UST game, the men on the floor are fueled by a boisterous crowd clad in yellow. Supporting the squad with all their heart and soul. From the place going crazy every time they score a basket to the Go USTe! chant which never fails to fuel up the crowd. The crowd makes every single game special.
As the ball game played along, it was a defensive oriented game with both teams picking it up on the defensive end. The Tigers had full control for most of the first three quarters and were poised to get the victory heading into the fourth quarter. But the resilient Bulldogs had an answer and they managed to complete a comeback to take the lead. But the Tigers had the counter response late in the ball game. As they came up with a 65-57 victory, and became the only team so far this season to beat the other 7 teams that make up the league. UST’s balanced scoring made the difference in this game. The bench players came through all game long, while the leading men had the final blow to seal the victory.
Photo ©Karl Carandang
For me, it was a great feeling to see the Tigers win the game as I watched it live. To tag along with the Go USTe! chants. Singing the UST Hymn once again in victory. Getting to see some of my friends along the way. Some of which I haven’t seen for quite awhile now. It was also the second victory for UST whenever I get to watch the game live at the arena. Which brings my record when watching it live at 2-3 (all three losses came at the hands of Ateneo).
The Tigers have been impressive this season. They overachieved and went beyond expectations where pundits in the preseason saw them miss the Final Four train once again. Although as I am writing this, they lost to the Blue Eagles to bring their record to 8-2 on the season. They have still done a great job of getting to this point in the season. We have two legitimate candidates for MVP in Kevin Ferrer and Ed Daquioag. Karim Abdul, though not yet in peak condition is getting there. Then the bench has been coming along well with guys like Marvin Lee, Mario Bonleon, Louie Vigil, Jamil Sheriff, Kent Lao, among others. Of course, gotta give a ton of credit to head coach Bong Dela Cruz. Last season, he had the task of succeeding the fiery Pido Jarencio and fell short on the goal. Now, that he got his second take on calling the shots, he’s responded well. If this great season of UST basketball continues, this could be the year we could see the title return to España after a nine year wait.
Returning to see the Tigers roar in UAAP basketball will always be a special moment. And if it permits (especially resource-wise), this will not be the last time this season I will get to see the Tigers roar in action live at the arena.
#GoUSTe! Viva Santo Tomas!