MANILA, Philippines – The University of Sto. Tomas (UST) Growling Tigers held off the defending UAAP champions Ateneo Blue Eagles in the round-robin Final Four of the Philippine Collegiate Champions League (PCCL), 76-66, Wednesday at the Arena in San Juan.
Jeric Teng scored 17 of his game-high 22 points in the first half to set the tone for the Tigers, who were out for revenge after losing to the Blue Eagles in the Season 75 finals.
"I was thinking that we lost during the UAAP, so it’s time for us to win against Ateneo," Teng said.
Teng spearheaded the Tigers' run in the second quarter to turn a close contest into a 42-32 halftime lead. UST's defense was on point during the period, not allowing Ateneo stars Kiefer Ravena and Greg Slaughter to make an impact.
They remained in control throughout the third period, before Ateneo, who were handled by interim head coach Gabby Severino, mounted a brief comeback in the final quarter.
Two free throws by Juami Tiongson made it 70-62 for UST with over two minutes to go, but Jeric Fortuna squashed any hopes of an Ateneo comeback when drilled a dagger three-pointer with 1:24 to go.
It was Fortuna's first triple of the game after missing his first six attempts. The veteran point guard finished with an all-around performance of nine points, eight rebounds and seven assists.
The victory over Ateneo was UST’s first since beating the five-time UAAP champions in the first round of the Season 75 men’s basketball tournament.
"I want to give Fortuna and Melo (Afuang) a championship, even in the PCCL," Teng said.
The Tigers clobbered the Eagles on the boards, 48-28. Nico Salva topscored for Ateneo with 13 points, while Ravena added 12.
In the first game, defending NCAA champions San Beda Red Lions survived a late-game rally by the Southwestern University Cobras, 73-72.
San Beda broke the game wide open in the second quarter, stringing together 12 straight points mostly on fastbreak lay-ups to lead 46-29 at the half.
The Red Lions led by double-digits for most of the second half before the Cobras came charging back in the final quarter behind the effort of star center Ben Mbala, who scored 15 of his 27 points in the fourth period.
A lay-up by Mbalah made it 70-73 with a little over a minute to go, then speedy guard Monbert Arong scored on the break to cut the deficit to a single digit.
San Beda's Baser Amer missed a shot with the clock running down for the Red Lions, giving the Cobras a chance to steal the win. They were able to get the ball inside to Mbala, but the big man was unable to put up a shot in time.
"Sinunod lang namin ang game plan ni Coach Ronnie (Magsanoc), kasi hindi namin alam ang play nila. Walang scouting," said San Beda forward Jake Pascual, who led the team with 17 points, 12 rebounds, three assists and two steals.
"Mukang nag-relax kami nung nakakuha kami ng big lead, pero magandang test ito para sa team namin sa PCCL," he added.
Pascual and the Red Lions will face the Growling Tigers next Friday. Meanwhile, the SWU Cobras will face the Blue Eagles.