MANILA, Philippines -- University of Santo Tomas (UST) racked up its sixth win in a row, but not before having to survive a furious fightback by Far Eastern University (FEU) in the UAAP Season 82 women's basketball tournament, Sunday at the Mall of Asia Arena.
Tacky Tacatac scored a season-high 22 points as the Golden Tigresses held off the Lady Tamaraws, 71-67, to improve to 8-2 in the season.
That puts them two games ahead of the Lady Tams (6-4) for the second spot in the league standings. Still at the top are the defending champions National University, who are at 10-0.
"This is a very important win," said UST head coach Haydee Ong. "We're (two) games ahead of them now, so we're just happy that we got the win."
It was a hard-earned result for the Tigresses, who led 53-43 at the start of the fourth frame off a Grace Irebu jumper, only to give up a 10-0 blast to the Lady Tams. A three-point play by Clare Castro with 7:12 left to play knotted the count at 53, and it was a back-and-forth game from there.
A lay-up in transition and a booming triple by Tacatac gave UST a 62-56 lead with just under four minutes left, but some careless plays by the Tigresses -- including a technical foul on Reynalyn Ferrer -- helped the Lady Tams come to within one point, 62-61, with 3:03 to go.
Fortunately for UST, Tacatac came to their rescue. She drew an unsportsmanlike foul from FEU's Princess Jumuad and calmly sank two free throws, before nailing a lay-up in the bonus possession for a 66-61 advantage with 2:31 remaining.
The Tigresses held on from there, though a late scoring flurry by Val Mamaril made it a one-possession game, 70-67, before Ruby Portillo's free throw with 1.1 seconds left pegged the final score.
"Si Tacky, I'm waiting for her to give her blowout game today, and I'm happy that she did today," said Ong. "I told her noong first round, she has to take more shots."
"Medyo gun-shy siya every time she gets the ball, parang walang confidence. Now that she's back, I hope tuloy-tuloy na, and I'm happy for her," she added.
Irebu, the league's reigning MVP, finished with 21 points and 14 rebounds, while Portillo had 11 points.
Mamaril had 19 points, 3 rebounds, 3 assists, and 4 steals for FEU, while Castro finished with 18 points and 9 rebounds. The Lady Tams trailed by as much as 18 points and were down 36-23 at the half, but clawed their way back to the game before falling short in the end.
It was FEU's second loss in a row.
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