Just like in their first-round meeting, University of the Philippines (UP) pulled off another escape act against the stubborn University of Santo Tomas (UST) squad.
The Fighting Maroons had to watch Marvin Lee’s potential game-winning triple rimmed out and held on for a 71-69 victory to snap a three-game losing skid in Season 80 University Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP) men’s basketball tournament on Wednesday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
“It was too difficult for us. We just wanted to get another win after those three losses. This will perk us up and believe again that we can still do this,” said UP head coach Bo Perasol, whose wards improved to 4-4.
“As a coach, I have to be creative and make sure they stay positive after three losses. We don’t want to get back to losing ways,” he added.
JanJan Jaboneta proved he deserved a starting role against UST after leading the team with 12 points including a pair of triples in the third period to keep the Growling Tigers at bay.
Jun Manzo and Paul Desiderio chipped in 11 and 10 markers, respectively, for the Fighting Maroons, who repeated their narrow 74-73 escape in the first round.
“Every time we go up against UST, it’s always going to be classic. I made sure they understood how dangerous UST is despite their winless slate,” Perasol said.
UP thought it had the game in the bag after Ibrahim Outtara followed up his own missed attempt, 70-64, with 1:16 remaining.
But the Growling Tigers answered with a quick 5-0 swing capped by Lee’s triple to threaten at 69-70, 11 seconds left in the game.
Lee sent Manzo to the free throw line in the next play and after making the first, the UP guard missed the second, giving UST another chance to at least tying the game.
But UP left Lee alone at the top of the key and the Growling Tiger’s banked shot at the rainbow territory almost hit the target as time expired.
Lee led all scorers with 17 points while Jorem Soriano and Jordan Sta. Ana contributed 14 and 13 points, respectively for UST, which fell to 0-8 and has now lost its last 12 games dating back Season 79.
It was a tough loss for the Growling Tigers, who missed 14 free throws (20-of-34) in the game.