MANILA, Philippines – (UPDATE 1) The University of Sto. Tomas (UST) Growling Tigers showed veteran composure in crunch time as they nipped the Ateneo Blue Eagles, 82-76, in Game 1 of the Philippine Collegiate Champions League (PCCL) Finals at the Arena in San Juan Tuesday.
In a rematch of the UAAP Season 75 Finals, the Tigers flipped the script and outplayed the Blue Eagles down the stretch to take a 1-0 lead in the best-of-three Finals series.
Kevin Ferrer got the better of his match-up against high school rival Kiefer Ravena, tallying 18 points on a perfect 9-of-9 shooting clip, including a breakaway dunk in the third period to fire up the UST crowd.
After trailing at halftime 39-42, the Tigers came alive in the second half, sparked by the late-arriving Clark Bautista and Ferrer. They entered the fourth period leading 60-58.
The teams traded baskets in the first few minutes of the fourth quarter, before a lay-up by Fortuna gave UST a 70-66 lead.
Ateneo responded with a 7-0 run, with five points coming from Tonino Gonzaga, to snatch the lead, 73-70.
But Ateneo’s star center Greg Slaughter committed a crucial blunder when he was called for a delay of game violation with 2:28 to go, leading to a technical foul.
Fortuna’s two free throws sparked an 8-0 run as the Tigers seized control of the ball game. Ferrer’s fast break lay-up with 22 seconds to go gave UST a 78-73 lead.
Ryan Buenafe gave the Blue Eagles some hope when he drilled a three-pointer off a timeout to cut the lead to two points, 76-78. Ateneo could not convert their chances at the end game, however, and were forced to give up duty fouls.
The Tigers, playing without head coach Pido Jarencio who had measles, wound up outscoring the Blue Eagles 12-3 in the final 2:30 of the contest.
“Gusto naming bumawi. Ito ‘yung payback time namin,” said Ferrer, referring to the Tigers’ painful loss to the Blue Eagles in the Season 75 Finals.
The Tigers can clinch their first-ever PCCL championship on Game 2 of the Finals on Thursday.
“Dadagdagan pa namin ‘yung puso, pride, palaban namin,” Ferrer said of their gameplan for Game 2. “Gagamitin pa namin ang mismatches.”
Red Lions finish third
In the third-place game, the San Beda Red Lions pulled away in the final quarter to defeat the Southwestern University (SWU) Cobras, 64-56.
Arthur dela Cruz led the way for San Beda with 12 points and nine rebounds, while Kyle Pascual topscored with 14 markers.
The Red Lions limited the impact of SWU’s Ben Mbala, who finished with only 16 points on 6-of-18 shooting, along with six rebounds and four blocks. Mbala tallied a PCCL-record 41 in their previous game.