MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) -- It was another come-from-behind victory for the University of Santo Tomas (UST) Growling Tigers as they rallied past the determined Adamson University Soaring Falcons, 61-60, in the UAAP Season 75 men's basketball tournament Sunday at the Araneta Coliseum.
The Falcons came very close to pulling off an upset, leading by six points, 60-54, with 3:22 left in the ball game after an Allen Etrone three-pointer. But the Tigers' defense clamped down after that bucket, and the Falcons would not score another point.
Making things worse for Adamson, leading scorer Eric Camson suffered from cramps in the final three minutes and would be ineffective the rest of the game.
UST ended the game on a 7-0 blast, with Kevin Ferrer keeping the Tigers in the game with a putback in the 2:11 mark.
Veteran point guard Jeric Fortuna drilled a three-pointer with 1:24 to go to make it a one-point game, and star big man Karim Abdul scored the go-ahead lay-up with 51 seconds to go.
UST head coach Pido Jarencio lauded his squad’s never-say-die attitude, saying, "Yung attitude of not giving up hanggang may oras, laban pa rin hanggang sa dulo."
"Tumibay na kami sa sitwasyon na 'yan. Marami na kaming games na endgame (situations), naghahabol tayo, tapos nananalo," he added.
"May mga puso lahat ang mga bata."
Abdul finished with his sixth double-double of the season with 18 points and 12 rebounds, while Fortuna had 12 points for the Tigers.
The Falcons still had a chance to complete the upset, but Roider Cabrera missed a three-pointer, and in the final possession of the game, Camson missed a lay-up in the face of three UST defenders.
It was a disappointing loss for the Falcons, who played a splendid game starting in the second quarter, wherein they outscored the Tigers 20-7. Adamson was ahead, 33-26, after the first half.
Camson, who has had to take on a bigger role since swingman Alex Nuyles went down to injury, put on a remarkable scoring performance in the third quarter. He scored 11 points in the period to keep the Falcons ahead, 50-47, at the end of the third period.
The Tigers would have been down by a larger margin were it not for the efforts of Aljon Mariano, who scored all of his 12 points in the third quarter.
Abdul struggled for much of the game after facing constant double-teams from Adamson, but he finally got going in the final quarter, scoring seven of his 18 points in the period, including the go-ahead lay-in.
Jarencio admitted that the Tigers once again got a lucky break when Camson went down with cramps late in the game.
"Oo, may buenas pa rin kahit konti. Naka-chamba na naman tayo kahit papaano. Buti na lang, naka-shoot si Karim at si Fortuna," he said.
The Tigers ended the first round of eliminations with a 6-1 record, tied with the defending champions Ateneo Blue Eagles. By virtue of their victory over Ateneo, UST will take the top spot.
Jarencio feels that the second round will be a more difficult challenge, but he welcomes the return of Jeric Teng, who has sat out the last three games due to a minor knee injury.
Camson finished with 19 points and 10 rebounds for the Falcons, while Rodney Brondial scored 15 points. Adamson finished the first round with a 1-7 record.