UST Growling Tigers rookie forward Regie Basibas goes for a drive during the game against UP Fighting Maroons. Photo by Mark R. Cristino for ABS-CBNnews.com
MANILA, Philippines -- (UPDATE 1) The undermanned University of Santo Tomas (UST) Growling Tigers got a huge lift from rookie forward Regie Basibas as they outlasted the University of the Philippines (UP) Fighting Maroons, 77-65, in the UAAP Season 77 men's basketball tournament Wednesday at the Mall of Asia Arena.
The Growling Tigers were playing without the injured Kevin Ferrer and Ed Daquioag, who were out with a left hand fracture and a left ankle sprain, respectively.
Basibas stepped up in their place, scoring 16 points and grabbing 18 rebounds, while veterans Aljon Mariano (13 points, five rebounds) and Karim Abdul (21 points, 12 rebounds) also finished in double-digits.
"Regie Boy, nag-step up siya sa practice. Nag-step up siya sa practice. May mga injured player kami at kailangan namin ng player na mags-step up. Si Regie Boy ang nagpakita this game," UST head coach Bong dela Cruz said after the game.
The Maroons led by as much as four points in the third period thanks in part to Mikee Reyes, who scored 10 points in the frame and assisted on a Gelo Vito jumper that made it 49-45.
UST seized the lead for good when Mariano's heave from beyond the arc beat the buzzer before the end of the frame, giving the Growling Tigers a 54-53 lead entering the final period. They then outscored UP, 13-3, in the first 5:49 of the fourth quarter to extend the lead to double-digits, 67-56.
The Maroons last threatened when JR Gallarza fired a triple and Diego Dario split his charities to make it a seven-point game with still under three minutes to go.
But as he had done all game, Basibas came up with a huge play as he converted a lay-up off a missed shot to give his team a more comfortable nine-point advantage, 69-60, with 2:31 to go, and the Maroons were unable to make a final rally.
"Athletic si Basibas, at 'yung basketball skills niya, andoon. Nagle-learn pa lang siya this year sa UAAP, pero maganda na nag-step up siya ngayon at maganda ang laro niya," said Dela Cruz.
Still in Final Four race
The victory allowed the Growling Tigers to keep their Final Four hopes alive as they hiked their record to 5-5, while the Maroons dropped to 1-9 this season.
"Buhay pa sa Final Four," said Dela Cruz. "Ang kailangan lang namin, one game at a time. Sabi ko nga sa mga bata, every possession counts. 'Yun ang battle cry namin ngayon."
Reyes finished with 22 points for the Maroons, but he was the only player in double-digits for State U, who as a team shot only 30% from the field and were out-rebounded 38-58.
Madrid thrown out
The Growling Tigers ended the first quarter on a 9-1 run - most of which came on free throws as the Fighting Maroons found themselves in penalty situation.
To make matters worse for UP, head coach Rey Madrid was thrown out with 17.7 seconds left in the period after getting called for two consecutive technical fouls. He entered the playing court without permission while complaining about an alleged non-call on a fast break, garnering his first tech.
Madrid continued to complain at the referees, even jumping up and down the sideline and screaming, and was called for another technical and summarily thrown out of the playing court.
"Nagulat din ako sa pagre-reklamo niya sa ref," Dela Cruz said of his UP counterpart.
Even without their head coach, the Maroons were able to make a run in the second quarter as the Tigers this time found themselves in penalty, and key players including Mariano and John Sheriff were in foul trouble.
UP briefly took the lead on two free throws by Kyles Lao, but UST ended the half strong with a 9-3 run and entered the halftime break with a 36-29 advantage.
A UP upset seemed possible in the third quarter when the Maroons went on a 12-3 scoring run that culminated in Vito's jump shot, but UST responded with a 9-4 run of their own sparked by Mariano, who bookended the scoring spurt with three-pointers.
UST 77 - Abdul 21, Basibas 16, Mariano 13, Vigil 11, Subido 7, Sheriff 4, Lo 2, Gayosa 2, Lao 1, Pe 0, Dela Cruz 0.
UP 65 - Reyes 22, Gingerich 9, Dario 9, Vito 8, Gallarza 7, Moralde 4, Lao 3, Juruena 3, Asilum 0, Amar 0, Harris 0, Bederi 0.
Quarter-scoring: 20-11, 36-29, 54-53, 77-65.