University of Sto. Tomas (UST) weathered a late rally by Far Eastern University (FEU) to pull off an 81-71 victory and advance to the next round of the stepladder semifinals in Season 82 University Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP) men’s basketball tournament on Wednesday at the Araneta Coliseum.
The Growling Tigers erected a massive 26-point halftime lead behind Most Valuable Player Soulemane Chabi Yo before foiling the Tamaraws’ comeback attempt.
“Nothing comes easy,” said UST head coach Aldin Ayo after heaving a sigh of relief. “That has always been our season. We thought this game would be easy for us but FEU was really tough.”
“They (FEU) are well-coached and they have good players. It’s just that our shots were falling today,” added Ayo.
UST will take on the twice-to-beat University of the Philippines for the right to face two-time defending champion Ateneo De Manila University in the finals.
The Tigers and the Fighting Maroons will battle on November 10 at the same venue.
Season MVP Chabi Yo fueled the España-based team’s scorching start as the 6-foot-6 Beninese forward fired 19 of his game-high 25 points in the first half to go with 11 rebounds and three assists.
Transferee guard Brent Paraiso also waxed hot in the first two quarters with 13 of his 18 points while veteran playmaker Renzo Subido chipped in 14 markers in the win.
UST built a 54-28 lead at the half but FEU uncorked a 28-point eruption in the third frame to eventually threaten within 65-70 with 6:37 left in the game.
The Tigers restored order with an eight-point run capped by Subido’s triple, 78-65, with 1:28 remaining.
Ken Tuffin and Xyrus Torres hit back-to-back treys for the Tamaraws, 71-78, but it was too little too late as UST held on to the victory.
Tuffin led FEU with 20 points while L-Jay Gonzales had 11 markers before getting sidelined late due to cramps and graduating guard Hubert Cani had 10 markers.
Main gunner Wendell Comboy was a non-factor with eight points in his last UAAP game for the Morayta-based squad even as graduating forward Barkley Eboña had nine markers prior to an ejection for two unsportsmanlike fouls on Chabi Yo.
Kimlee Bayquin also played his last game for the Tamaraws.
UST 81 – Chabi Yo 25, Paraiso 18, Subido 14, Abando 9, Nonoy 6, Huang 4, Bataller 3, Cansino 2, Ando 0, Concepcion 0, Cuajao 0.
FEU 71 – Tuffin 20, Gonzales 11, Cani 10, Ebona 9, Comboy 8, Torres 8, Tchuente 5, Alforque 0, Bayquin 0, Bienes 0, Stockton 0.
Quarters: 26-16, 54-28, 70-56, 81-71
JEREMIAH M. SEVILLA