MANILA, Philippines -- Builders Warehouse-UST snatched the last playoff spot in the 2022 PBA D-League Aspirants' Cup after defeating Wangs Basketball @26-Letran, 89-81, Tuesday at the Ynares Sports Arena in Pasig City.
The Growling Tigers squandered an early lead but finished on a strong note to eliminate the reigning NCAA champions in what was a virtual knockout game for the last spot in the quarterfinals.
UST, which opened the tournament on a four-game losing streak, finished the elimination round with a 3-4 win-loss record. They enter the quarterfinals as the No. 6 seed and will take on No. 3 Adalem Construction-St. Clare, which has a twice-to-beat advantage.
"Hindi pa kami masyadong nakapag-prepare sa mga unang laro pero nagtrabaho lang kami. We believed in ourselves at ang mindset namin is bagong Tigers talaga," said interim coach Albert Alocillo.
"Malaking motivation sa amin ito going into the playoffs."
Five players finished in double-digits for UST, led by captain Sherwin Concepcion who had 17 points built on four three-pointers. He also had 14 rebounds, an assist, a steal, and a block.
Nic Cabanero and Kean Baclaan chipped in 16 points each, while Paul Manalang and Bryan Santos had 10 apiece in their team's scattered attack built on a hot start and an even stronger finish.
Riding on their historic 71-point win over AMA Online and a mammoth upset of top contender Marinerong Pilipino, the Growling Tigers raced to a 31-17 start to set the tone in what turned out to be a tight battle down the stretch.
The Knights refused to fade away easily, even taking a 75-73 lead with still under seven minutes to play. But UST outscored them, 18-6 ,in the final minutes to regain control of the game.
Louie Sangalang and Fran Yu scored 18 and 17 points, respectively, but the skidding Knights still stumbled out of the playoffs at 3-4 after losing their last four games.
Builders Warehouse-UST 89 - Concepcion 17, Cabanero 16, Baclaan 16, Manalang 10, Santos 10, Mantua 8, Pangilinan 6, Stevens 4, Manaytay 2, Herrera 0, Escobido 0, Wilson 0.
Wangs-Letran 81 - Sangalang 18, Yu 17, Reyson 14, Guarino 11, Javillonar 8, Olivario 5, Ariar 4, Aviso 0, Go 0.
Quarters: 25-17, 45-41, 64-68, 89-81.