UST's Kevin Ferrer fires one of his triples against NU's Ray Parks during their semifinals match. The Tigers won, 76-69, to arrange a title showdown versus La Salle. -- Photo by Mark Cristino for ABS-CBNNews.com
MANILA, Philippines (2nd UPDATE) -- University of Sto. Tomas (UST) closed out top-seeded National University (NU), 76-69, in their knockout game to return to the UAAP men’s basketball finals and arrange a title showdown against De La Salle University (DLSU).
The Bulldogs bowed out despite a twice-to-beat edge as the fourth-seeded Tigers completed a two-game sweep in front of 17,828 spectators at the Mall of Asia Arena.
Jeric Teng led the Tigers with 19 points while Kevin Ferrer, who did the most damage in the fourth quarter, had 18.
An emotional UST coach Pido Jarencio felt vindicated for steering his wards back to the finals.
“Hirap. Speechless ako ngayon. Hindi ko akalain aabot kami ng finals,” said a teary-eyed Jarencio following the game.
UST, which was swept by the Ateneo Blue Eagles during last year’s UAAP finals, became the first fourth seed to reach the finals since the league adopted the Final Four format in 1994.
It was a grueling journey for the Tigers, who saw its UAAP bid threatened following Teng’s month-long layoff due to injury.
UST also needed to eliminate the Eagles to catch the last trip to the UAAP Final Four. As fourth seed, the Tigers took on the daunting task of needing to beat league-leader NU twice before arranging a Finals match-up with La Salle.
Jarencio, who felt his team had nothing to lose against NU, believes he has proven UST’s detractors wrong.
“S’yempre maraming taong nagdududa sa kakayanan ko,” he said.
UST quickly established its rhythm in the first quarter with Tata Bautista leading the way for a 19-10 lead.
Aljon Mariano and Teng took over midway the second canto where UST took a 25-15 advantage. Joshua Alolino’s quick basket and Ray Parks’ free throws enabled NU to cut the lead, 26-19.
Alolino and Emmanuel Mbe then pushed the Bulldogs ahead, 31-29. But Ferrer knotted the scores on the stripe to end the first half.
It was neck and neck for UST and NU in the third period, until Jamil Sheriff’s midrange jumper that pushed the Tigers ahead, 45-43. Ferrer then buried a triple late in the third for a six-point cushion, 50-44.
NU managed to pull within one going into the fourth quarter, 50-49, through Lee Villamor’s three-point dagger and Troy Rosario’s buzzer beater.
But UST showed championship poise in the final minutes where the Tigers unleashed an 11-0 run that knocked the wind out of the Bulldogs.
The Tigers foiled the Bulldogs’ attempt to make its first UAAP Finals appearance since 1970.
Two-time MVP Parks, who bailed out in the dying seconds due to cramps, finished with 15 points. He was held scoreless in the fourth quarter. Mbe added 10 for National U.
UST won their first Final Four meeting, 71-62, last week to force the deciding second game against NU on Saturday.
The Tigers will face the Green Archers, who beat the FEU Tamaraws last Wednesday to clinch the other Finals ticket.
UAAP panelist and former Eagle Kirk Long said the finals showdown will be an interesting match as it will pit UST’s Jeric Teng against his brother Jeron of La Salle.
“It's gonna be exciting seeing the brothers face off,” said Long.
“La Salle, UST [are] two deep teams, it will be an all-out war, all-out battle.”
Jubilant father and son Alvin Teng and LA Salle's Jeron Teng watching UST's win over NU. The Tengs were cheering for Jeric who scored 19 points against the Bulldogs. -- Photo by Mark Cristino for ABS-CBNNews.com
Jeron was also present at the MOA Arena as he cheered for his brother during the game.
The best-of-three finals between UST and La Salle will begin on Wednesday.
UST 76 – Teng 19, Ferrer 18, Mariano 12, Bautista 8, Sheriff 6, Abdul 6, Daquioag 3, Lo 2, Pe 1, Lao 1.
NU 69 – Parks 15, Mbe 10, Alolino 10, Javelona 9, Villamor 8, Rosario 6, Rono 6, Khobuntin 3, Javillonar 2, Neypes 0, Alejandro 0.
Quarterscores: 19-10; 31-31; 50-49; 76-69.