UAAP 82: Tigresses ride golden form to first Finals since 2006
ABS-CBN Sports on Nov 16, 2019 03:37 PM
(Photo courtesy of UAAP)
Grace Irebu willed University of Santo Tomas to its first Finals appearance in 13 years, staving off Far Eastern University with a 76-65 victory in the do-or-die clash in the UAAP Season 82 Women's Basketball Stepladder Semis Saturday at Smart Araneta Coliseum.
"We waited for three years for this to happen," said coach Haydee Ong, bringing the Golden Tigresses to the championship round for the first time since the Peque Tan-mentored side won the UAAP Season 69 title in 2006.
The Congolese Irebu would not be denied as she powered the Golden Tigresses with 28 points, 14 rebounds, and three blocks.
"This game was very important for us," said the Season MVP in back-to-back seasons as she was intent on getting back at the Lady Tamaraws after her side's 48-46 Game One defeat.
"We didn't play well during the first game, but we made sure to start strong and finish strong in this game. The game was physical, but we did not give up. We executed inside the court."
UST, however, still needed to get its act together late after losing grip of a 43-21 halftime lead, with Valerie Mamaril leading the fightback and cutting the FEU deficit down to five, 70-65, with 2:20 on the clock.
Defense, though, was the key for the Golden Tigresses, holding off that rally, highlighted by Eka Soriano's crucial steal on Choy Bahuyan's pass to Fatima Quiapo in the final minute to douse the run.
Soriano and Irebu iced the game at the free throw line as UST celebrated in jubilation.
"The program has no shortcut. You have to work for it, and finally, we're in the Finals," said Ong. "This is a tribute to the Thomasian community and to everyone who supported us along the way."
Lon Rivera unfurled 13 points and five boards for the Golden Tigresses, holding back tears as she expressed her gratitude to their mentors.
"Ilang taon namin hinintay ito. Since Day One ng dumating sila, hindi sila sumuko sa amin," she said.
Soriano also got 11 points, four rebounds, and two steals after getting ejected back in Game One.
UST marches on to the best-of-three Finals against the unbeaten and six-peat-seeking National University, with Game One slated on Wednesday at Mall of Asia Arena.
Mamaril topscored for FEU with 23 points, four rebounds, three assists, and two steals in the defeat.
Clare Castro also saw her collegiate career end with a bronze medal as she was held to just nine points, six rebounds, and two blocks.
UST 76 -- Irebu 28, Rivera 13, Soriano 11, Portillo 8, Tacatac 6, Ferrer 4, Panti 4, Callangan 2, Gandalla 0, Gonzales 0, Javier 0.
FEU 65 -- Mamaril 23, Bahuyan 12, Jumuad 11, Castro 9, Quiapo 6, Antiola 2, Vidal 2, Abat 0, Adriano 0, Bastatas 0, Delos Santos 0, Pacia 0.
Quarterscores: 14-11, 43-21, 59-45, 76-65.