MANILA, Philippines—With University of the Philippines knocking on the door late in the fourth quarter, a pair of rookies came up with big shots for University of Santo Tomas in their stepladder semifinal game in the UAAP Season 82 men's basketball tournament.
The Fighting Maroons were within nine points, 72-63, thanks to a Kobe Paras floater with 3:14 left to play. But off a timeout, the Tigers got Sherwin Concepcion open for a 3-pointer, and the rookie out of Mapua splashed the triple.
UST forced a stop on the other end, and another rookie, Mark Nonoy, rose for the 3-pointer that made it a 15-point game, 78-63, with 2:38 left. The Fighting Maroons would not come any closer, and Nonoy later added another 3-pointer with under a minute left for an 85-65 spread.
"Those are big shots, especially coming from rookies," said UST head coach Aldin Ayo, after the Tigers completed an 89-69 win that allowed them to force a do-or-die game for a spot in the finals.
"But, well," he added, "given na sa kanila 'yun."
Concepcion has established himself as a 3-point threat, as the big man makes nearly 34% of his attempts from behind the arc. Nonoy, meanwhile, has been given the green light by Ayo despite his young age.
Thus, the coach was not surprised to see both players deliver on the big stage.
"Si Sherwin, di ko napanood maglaro ‘yan sa Mapua. Pero based on sa mga assistant coaches ko, kila coach McJour (Luib), alam nila na he’s going to deliver, and he has that confidence every time he takes a shot," said Ayo.
"And Mark Nonoy, simula nang dumating ‘yan dito sa Manila, hindi na nawala ‘yung mata ko diyan. Alam na alam ko kung ano'ng merong diyan. Kilalang-kilala ko ‘yan.
"So alam ko na in those kinds of situations, he’ll deliver."
Concepcion finished with 12 points on 4-of-8 shooting, while Nonoy tallied 16 points, 4 rebounds, 4 assists, and 2 steals.
Ayo has no doubt that his two rookies — along with the rest of UST — will once again live up to expectations come Wednesday, when they play UP in a do-or-die for the right to face Ateneo de Manila University in the best-of-3 finals.
"Nakailang do-or-die na kami," he pointed out.
"We're getting our confidence based on our preparations," he added. "If we just do our best, if we just prepare, then come game time, we’ll be confident. As long as that everything we prepared for, should be executed during the game."
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