MANILA, Philippines – The University of Sto. Tomas (UST) Growling Tigers defeated the San Beda Red Lions to secure the first final berth in the Philippine Collegiate Champions League (PCCL) on Friday.
The Tigers weathered a fourth quarter fight-back by the Lions for a narrow 63-60 win in their Final Four encounter at The Arena in San Juan City.
Fresh from its 96-86 victory over the Ateneo Blue Eagles, UST rode on a strong second half to get past NCAA title holder San Beda.
Aljon Mariano led the España-based dribblers with 16 points, 6 rebounds and 1 steal.
San Beda built an early 25-15 lead against UST, courtesy of Art de la Cruz and Baser Amer.
Although successive plays by Aljon Mariano and Jeric Teng brought the Lions’ advantage down to 30-25 in the second quarter, San Beda maintained its hold on the lead at the half, 39-35.
Luck began to favor the Tigers when they started employing a physical game against the Lions in the third quarter.
While San Beda was struggling inside the paint, Karim Abdul and Aljon Mariano sparked a 10-2 run to seize the lead for UST, 45-43, with over 4 minutes left in the quarter.
San Beda bounced back in the final period to make it a 1-point game, 59-58, with 5 minutes remaining.
Mariano responded with 4 points to keep the Lions within striking distance, 63-58, with over 2 minutes left.
With all its might, San Beda tried to wrest the lead back from UST.
But The Lions’ efforts fell short as they only managed 2 points amid the Tigers’ tight defense in the final minutes.
UST now has a 2-0 record in the round-robin Final Four, good enough for a seat in the PCCL finals.
San Beda, meanwhile, is tied with Ateneo with a 1-1 record.
The Lions and the Eagles will square off on Sunday for the right to face the Tigers in the finals.