JUST like UAAP Season 69 in 2006, Tigers again drop the Game One of the Finals in a controversial end.
The University of Santo Tomas Growling Tigers fell short to pull another comeback victory as they succumbed to crucial fouls in the last minute of the match en route to a 78-83 heart-breaking loss against the reigning titlist, Ateneo de Manila University Blue Eagles, in Game One of their best-of-three championship series at the jam-packed Mall of Asia Arena yesterday.
Tigers rallied from a 10-point deficit heading to the pay-off period to regain the driver seat with 6:57 left, 64-63, using a 13-2 run spearheaded by Aljon Mariano’s nine points, including a perimeter basket in the eight minute mark.
Eagles bounced back in the fourth minute frame as they established again a seven-point advantage, highlighted by Ryan Buenafe’s completed four-point play with three minutes left in the match, 77-70.
Jeric Teng tried to put the UST one possession close to the Ateneo as he unleashed back-to-back treys in the last stretch of the final canto and cut the deficit into three, 78-81, but Cameroonian Karim Abdul drew his fifth foul with 30 seconds left that lead to Coach Pido Jarencio’s rage.
Teng lead the España-based squad’s offense as he tallied 25 points, while Aljon Mariano slated double-double figures, scoring 22 points, 12 rebounds, and 5 assist. Team captain Jeric Fortuna only tallied four points while Clark Bautista missed all his five attempts in the rainbow territory.
The Jarencio-mentored squad’s seven-point advantage heading to the second half melt down in third canto as they were handed scoreless for six minutes plus a 17-0 run blasted by the Eagles through Nico Salva’s pull-up jumpers, 38-48.
Katipunan-based squad forward Salva registered game-high 30 markers, while Kiefer Ravena and play-maker Juami Tiongson added a combined 25 productions to spearhead the four-peat champs in moving an inch closer to the UAAP title again.
UST started strong in the first quarter as Teng and Mariano managed to drain their baskets, 24-18. It continued in the second frame as they were able to build an 11-point lead after a 3-point play by the latter in 3:06 and end the first half to 38-31.
Meanwhile, Jarencio expressed his dismay with the referees’ calls in the final minute of the match including the foul given to Abdul and the supposed three bonus charities of Teng in the 0.5 mark that may cut the deficit into two.
Coach Jarencio verbally confronted the referees as he reached his boiling point, resulting to an exit of the game officials assisted by hefty-sized bouncers and drew boos from the mammoth crowd of UST.
“Binigyan namin ng magandang laban ang Ateneo pero wag naman ganun. Umakyat pa nga ako sa kanila (officials) na maging fair sila sa officiating pero bakit ganun?” Jarencio said in an interview.
“Ang ninipis ng tawag, ang kakapal ng mukha. Sana marinig lang din nila ako. Eh kasi naaawa ako sa mga estudyante [magbabayad ng] 250, pipila madaling araw. Ala una ng madaling araw nandyan na para mapanood lang kami. [Mapapanood ang] Ateneo-UST game tapos gaganunin lang. De-deprive kami ng fair officiating,” Jarencio added.
Game Two of the Finals will be held in Smart Araneta Coliseum. An Ateneo win will mark another history for being the only team, after UE in 1971, to clinch a rare five-peat but a UST win will force a winner take all match on Saturday, and a possible repeat of season 69.
Tigers’ Score: Teng 25, Mariano 22, Ferrer 13, Abdul 9, Fortuna 4, Lo 3, Pe 2, Bautista 0
Eagles’ Score: Salva 30, Ravena 13, Tiongson 12, Buenafe 10, Chua 9, Slaughter 5, Gonzaga 2, Elorde 2, Sumalinog 0, Golla 0
Quarter Score: 24-18, 38-31, 51-61, 78-83
By Karl Cedrick G. Basco
Photo taken by Jenzine Inah M. Alcantara