MANILA, Philippines (2nd UPDATE)—University of Santo Tomas continued its dominance over University of the Philippines in UAAP Season 82 and, in the process, kept its campaign alive in the men's basketball tournament.
The Growling Tigers registered an 89-69 victory over the Fighting Maroons in the second phase of the stepladder semifinals on Sunday at Araneta Coliseum, forcing a do-or-die game for a spot in the championship round.
In front of a crowd of 17,722 at the Big Dome, the Tigers got off to a strong start and never let up en route to the impressive victory, their third win over the Fighting Maroons in Season 82. Leading the way for UST was the tandem of Rhenz Abando and Mark Nonoy, as the two came off the bench to combine for 33 points and 11 rebounds.
The do-or-die game between UST and UP is set for Wednesday, Nov. 13, at Mall of Asia Arena. The winner advances to play unbeaten Ateneo de Manila University in the best-of-3 finals.
Fourth-seeded UST had advanced to the next round of the stepladder after an 81-71 victory over No. 3 Far Eastern University last Wednesday.
Waiting for them were the second-seeded Fighting Maroons, who needed just one more win in order to advance to the finals for the second season in a row.
But UST instead extended their winning streak over the Maroons to stay in the hunt for the finals spot. The Growling Tigers swept their elimination round encounters over UP, 85-69 in the first round, and 84-78 in the second round.
Soulemane Chabi Yo, the Season 82 MVP, tallied 17 points, making 8 of his 10 charities, while grabbing 15 rebounds. Sherwin Concepcion also came up big, hitting crucial 3-pointers in the final frame to hold off the Maroons; he finished with 12 points after making four of his eight attempts from downtown.
Veteran Renzo Subido had 8 points and 12 assists in the win.
"It’s all about execution. Execution on both defense and offense. We executed our game plan and lahat ng instructions ko, sinusunod ng mga players. We were connected out there," said UST coach Aldin Ayo after the game.
The Growling Tigers got off to a fiery start, as Subido and Rhenz Abando nailed their triples to push UST to a 19-13 lead after the opening quarter.
They clamped down defensively in the second quarter, limiting the Maroons to just 11 points. In contrast, the Tigers got into a rhythm offensively, with CJ Cansino attacking the hoop with ease while Abando drilled two more 3-pointers. UST's lead ballooned to 18 points, 38-20, off an Abando triple with 2:15 left in the frame.
The Maroons tried to end the half strong off two charities by Juan Gomez de Liaño with 43 ticks left, but they gave up a 3-pointer to Concepcion with just 30 seconds to go, allowing UST to head into the break with a 41-24 cushion.
Behind Gomez de Liaño, UP rallied to start the third. The former Rookie of the Year scored seven straight points, helping them trim the deficit to 12 points, 43-31, with 8 minutes left. But he had to sit for a long stretch after appearing to hurt his ankle, and the Tigers pulled away once again.
UST led 52-33 halfway through the third period after Mark Nonoy dusted UP veteran Jun Manzo with a crossover then rose for the jumper.
The Maroons came alive once more behind Bright Akhuetie, who barreled repeatedly into the paint to draw fouls. The return of Gomez de Liano also sparked UP, and his triple with 1:15 left trimmed the deficit to 11 points once again, 57-46.
It was still UST that ended the quarter on a strong note, however. A split at the line by Brent Paraiso and a layup by Cansino made it 60-47 for the Tigers heading into the payoff period.
The Maroons got to within nine points, 72-63, with 3:14 left off a floater by Kobe Paras. It turned out to be the closest that UP would get, as the Tigers put the game away from there. Concepcion and Nonoy drained two three-pointers in the span of 20 seconds to push the lead to 15, 78-63, before Chabi Yo notched back-to-back layups for an 82-65 advantage with 1:25 left.
Fittingly, it was Nonoy who put the finishing touches on the win, connecting on a dagger three-pointer with 50 seconds left that made it a 20-point game, 85-65.
"Mahirap," said Abando of their game. "Pero and'yan naman 'yung coaches namin. Kahit alam namin na mahihirapan kami, alam namin na andoon 'yung sistema nila. Sumunod lang kami sa sistema."
The Tigers shot 40.85% from the field, making 11 of their 36 attempts from downtown. They also tallied 23 assists on 29 made field goals, and pounced on UP's 22 turnovers for 21 points.
The Maroons, meanwhile, made just 39% of their field goals. Gomez de Liaño came alive late to finish with a team-high 20 points, while Akhuetie had 19 points and 18 rebounds, but also committed 8 turnovers.
Paras, playing in his first playoff game, was shackled. He scored just 9 points on 4-of-13 shooting, and UP coach Bo Perasol later said that the athletic swingman was still struggling with his shoulder injury.
Ricci Rivero had 12 points, making 6 of 16 field goals, along with 9 rebounds, 5 assists, and 2 steals.
UST 89 -- Abando 17, Chabi Yo 17, Nonoy 16, Concepcion 12, Cansino 11, Subido 8, Ando 4, Huang 2, Paraiso 2, Bataller 0.
UP 69 -- Ju. Gomez de Liano 20, Akhuetie 19, Rivero 12, Paras 9, Webb 4, Ja. Gomez de Liano 3, Tungcab 2, Jaboneta 0, Mantilla 0, Manzo 0, Murrell 0, Prado 0, Spencer 0.
Quarters: 19-13, 41-24, 60-47, 89-69.
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