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Rebuilt Growling Tigers squad seek growth in this UAAP season

Season 81 provided a glimmer of hope for the España faithful, and the upcoming Season 82 seeks to be the culmination of the unexpected rebuild the Tigers have entered. 

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Kuha ni Christine Annmarie Tapawan

Despite coming off a still subpar 5-9 season which resulted in a sixth-place finish in the previous UAAP season, the UST Growling Tigers have come a long way from being the dismal team that recorded only THREE wins in two seasons under former coach Rodil “Boy” Sablan. 

It may still be well below the winning standard the school has been known for, but know this—even with that finish, Season 81 provided a glimmer of hope for the España faithful, and the upcoming Season 82 seeks to be the culmination of the unexpected rebuild the Tigers have entered. 

This year, the Tigers come in with a reloaded core, bringing in fresh talent such as the season 81 Tiger Cub standout Mark Nonoy, former CDSL big man Soulemane Chabi Yo and the all-around wing from Pangasinan, Rhenz Abando – who all put on good performances in preseason tournaments such as the PBA D-League and the recently concluded NBA 5v5 in Shanghai, China. 

Rounding out the fresh talent UST has right now would be Brent Paraiso, who was part of the De LaSalle University Green Archers team that won the UAAP crown during Season 80 is also set to debut for the Growling Tigers this season after serving his one-year residency following his transfer from the Taft-based squad to España. 

Going along with the new recruits would be holdovers expected to play leadership roles for the young team—familiar names such as team captain and King Tiger CJ Cansino, Renzo Subido and Zach Huang who are set to play in their final seasons for UST will be taking on the roles of battle-tested veterans who will mentor their young core of players.

To add icing on the cake, multi-titled mentor Aldin Ayo is set to return as head coach as well along with the rest of his coaching staff for their second year with the black and gold.

“Well, last year, we finished sixth. This year if we finish fifth it’s already an achievement, but of course, we’re not gonna settle for that.” the two-time champion coach explained when asked about his expectations for the season. 

When asked about the prospect of returning to the Final Four, Ayo simply said that the team will be doing their best and make sure that this season is better than the last.

“Well, we’re just going to do our best and we’re just making sure that this season is better than our previous season,” he said.

With all the pieces now lined up for UST, elite coaching staff and a talented pool of players both old and anew, it is now up to them to mesh and complement all these pieces together to either finally turn back to being Final Four contenders or add another year to their rebuilding process. 

UST is set to open their campaign against the UE Red Warriors at the Araneta Coliseum on September 4, Wednesday.

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Tigers fail to find answers as Eagles come alive to take Game 1

Playing their first game in over two weeks, the defending champs easily cruised to a dominant start, opening the game with an 18-4 blast led by Thirdy Ravena who scored 11 straight points for the Eagles to give his squad a 32-17 start. 

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Photo by Christine Annmarie Tapawan/TomasinoWeb

The currently unbeaten Ateneo Blue Eagles showed no signs of rust as they easily snatched Game 1 of the UAAP Season 82 men’s basketball finals over the underdog UST Growling Tigers, 91-77, held at the Araneta Coliseum in Cubao Saturday, Nov. 16. 

Playing their first game in over two weeks, the defending champs easily cruised to a dominant start, opening the game with an 18-4 blast led by Thirdy Ravena who scored 11 straight points for the Eagles to give his squad a 32-17 start. 

The Tigers looked ready to close the gap in the second quarter when reigning rookie of the year Mark Nonoy came alive to spearhead a 19-3 run to cut Ateneo’s 19 point advantage down to eight. 

Ateneo however, countered with a 13-1 run of their own to head into halftime leading 54-39. 

Come the third quarter, the Eagles started to pull away further, once again being led by Thirdy Ravena who poured in 12 of Ateneo’s 22 points in the period. 

The fourth and final quarter saw a subdued scoring affair for Ateneo as they were held to just 15 points by the Tigers. 

Despite the Atenean masterclass, UST actually came close in quarter per quarter scoring, especially in the second and fourth quarters that saw them go 22-all against the Eagles and outscoring them 19-15, respectively.

Even with the loss, Coach Aldin Ayo stressed that the team won’t be heading into Wednesday’s matchup with tons of pressure and would focus more on the necessary preparations to extend the series.

“Not so much dun sa pressure eh. Magfofocus kami sa preparations, titignan, pag-aaralan namin yung laro kung ano yung kailangan baguhin don,” the champion mentor stated in an exclusive interview with TomasinoWeb.

Rookie of the Year Mark Nonoy had a herculean effort to lead UST with a career-high 26 points with 12 of those coming in his squad’s huge second quarter run. 

Brent Paraiso chipped in 14 points and reigning MVP Soulemane Chabi Yo had a double-double of 13 points and 10 rebounds to go along with Nonoy’s offensive outburst. 

For the Eagles, last year’s Finals MVP Thirdy Ravena went off with a game-high 32 points while Ivorian stalwart Ange Kouame had an 18-point, 12-rebound double-double. 

The two-way threat SJ Belangel also had 12 points on an efficient 4-of-9 shooting for the Katipunan-based squad.

Game 2 of the Finals is set to be played on Wednesday at the Mall of Asia Arena as the Tigers attempt to bring the series to a decisive third and final game.

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Cansino more than happy as UST clinches finals berth a year after freak injury

For team captain CJ Cansino, this finals appearance means so much more considering how his super-rookie season came to an abrupt end in Season 81 when he went down with an ACL injury against the same opponent in the same venue and UST’s campaign went completely downhill as they lost their last four games without him in the lineup. 

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Photo by Christine Annmarie Tapawan/TomasinoWeb

With their 68-65 win over the UP Fighting Maroons on Wednesday, the UST Growling Tigers are officially headed to the UAAP men’s basketball tournament finals after four long years to face the currently unbeaten Ateneo Blue Eagles this Saturday. 

For team captain CJ Cansino however, this finals appearance means so much more considering how his super-rookie season came to an abrupt end in Season 81 when he went down with an ACL injury against the same opponent in the same venue and UST’s campaign went completely downhill as they lost their last four games without him in the lineup.

“Sobrang saya ko. Kahit di ako naka contribute nang malaki, nakapasok naman kami ng finals. Iba talaga yung feeling pag pumapasok ng finals eh, dahil simula noong pumasok ako ng UST high school, pangarap ko na talaga ipasok ang UST sa finals,” Cansino quipped in an exclusive interview with TomasinoWeb

Despite only scoring two points, Cansino managed to pull down eight rebounds for the España-based squad in the closeout game against the Maroons. 

“Di ko maexplain eh. Bigla nalang tumulo yung luha ko tas tinignan ko yung mga tao and gaano sila kasaya. Sobrang sarap sa feeling,” he added when asked to describe the feeling of a finals appearance.

Cansino and the rest of the Tigers will look to draw first blood against the Ateneo De Manila University Blue Eagles as they play game one of the finals on Saturday.

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Tigers pull out of slugfest to claim finals berth over UP

It was yet another cardiac finish in do-or-die Wednesday as the UST Growling Tigers knocked off season 81 runners-up the UP Fighting Maroons with a 68-65 triumph to snap their four-year Finals drought in the UAAP season 82 men’s basketball tournament at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay Wednesday, Nov. 13. 

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Photo by Christine Annmarie Tapawan/TomasinoWeb

It was yet another cardiac finish in do-or-die Wednesday as the UST Growling Tigers knocked off season 81 runners-up the UP Fighting Maroons with a 68-65 triumph to snap their four-year Finals drought in the UAAP season 82 men’s basketball tournament at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay Wednesday, Nov. 13. 

Despite a strong showing from UST in the first quarter which saw them outscore the Maroons 18-6, the rest of the contest was a dogfight between the two clubs with no clear winner in sight till the last few seconds of the game. 

The Maroons were able to go up by four points several times during the payoff period but clutch defense which led to crucial stops gave the Tigers a fighting chance to still pull out a win. 

With over 26 seconds left in regulation, the veteran Renzo Subido fired a huge triple over UP big man Bright Akhuetie which ultimately ended up as the game winning shot that gave UST a 66-65 lead as time expired. 

UP had its chances to retake the lead with a Kobe Paras attempt at a triple and a missed shot from Javi Gomez De Liaño, both of which resulted in crucial misses that led to MVP Soulemane Chabi Yo icing the game at the free-throw line.

James Spencer from UP had one last second attempt at a game-tying triple that resulted in a miss and capped off an underwhelming season for the Maroons. 

“That was a good game. We have to give credit to coach Bo [Perasol] and his coaching staff for the adjustments they made. It was real tough for us, because of their adjustments, na-negate yung mga ginagawa namin and we tried to counter, we were able to get our shots kaya lang hindi pumapasok but I kept on telling the boys keep on taking those shots kasi yun naman talaga yung tinitira namin.” Coach Aldin Ayo stated in the post-game presscon. 

Reigning MVP Soulemane Chabi Yo once again lead the charge for the Tigers with 22 points and 16 rebounds, while Renzo Subido poured in 14 points built on four triples, with one serving as the dagger for UST.

“Its just part of the game. I took the shot kasi ‘di lumapit si Bright [Akhuetie] eh. Yun lang, I’ve been practicing those everyday and I was confident with the shot.” Subido remarked when asked about his dagger three-pointer. 

Bright Akhuetie paced UP with a 16 point, 17 rebound double-double. Graduating point guard Jun Manzo and Ricci Rivero scored 12 points apiece, with this game being Manzo’s swan song in the UAAP.

With the win, UST sets up a finals duel against the unbeaten Ateneo Blue Eagles.

Game one of the UAAP season 82 finals will be played this Saturday, Nov. 16 at the Araneta Coliseum in Cubao.

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