UNIVERSITY of Santo Tomas (UST) prevailed over National University (NU), 76-69, to claim the last finals berth of the University Athletic Association of the Philippines Season 76 men’s basketball at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City on Saturday.
After UST forced a sudden-death game last week with a convincing 71-62 win in Game 1, the do-or-die match before an estimated 18, 000 crowd turned out to be a tough battle.
“I never thought we would come playing in the finals because many people are doubting us,” said the teary-eyed UST head coach Pido Jarencio. “NU gave us a tough fight and I’m really happy my players responded well. I just can’t explain how happy I am.”
Skipper Jeric Teng posted 19 points, Kevin Ferrer 18 and Aljon Mariano 12 for UST.
The Growling Tigers, who now made history as the first ever fourth seed team to beat a No. 1 seed squad, will battle No. 2 De La Salle University Green Archers in the best-of-three finals starting on Wednesday.
After establishing a nine-point lead (19-10) at the end of the first quarter, the Growling Tigers have had a hard time keeping their lead as the Bulldogs unleashed a 12-2 run to tie the count at halftime, 31-all. The game was a tight one until the end of the third period with UST leading by mere one point, 50-49.
Jamil Sheriff came out with a big lay-up in the fourth quarter to provide the Growling Tigers a safe buffer, 69-61, with 53.8 ticks left after an NU turnover.
UST was never threatened after NU absorbed back-to-back turnovers within the last 30 seconds.
This is UST’s second straight finals appearance after losing to former champion Ateneo De Manila University last year.