MANILA, Philippines – One step closer to a championship and to revenge.
University of Santo Tomas clawed back to stop Ateneo de Manila University, 82-76, taking the opener of their Philippine Collegiate Champions League (PCCL) finals series on Tuesday at the FilOil Flying V Arena in San Juan.
The Growling Tigers, who lost to the Blue Eagles in the recent UAAP finals, scored their second straight win over Ateneo in the PCCL and more importantly, drew one step closer to their first-ever crown in the decade-old tourney.
Kevin Ferrer led UST with 18 points on a perfect 9-of-9 shooting from the field, but it was a concerted effort from the entire Espana squad that made them rise from a late deficit and take a 1-0 lead in their best-of-three series.
“Gusto naming bumawi,” Ferrer said. “Ito yung payback namin.” (We want to get back at the Blue Eagles. This is our payback.)
Tonino Gonzaga scored off a fastbreak as the Katipunan-based squad built a 73-70 advantage late in the fourth, before the Tigers dropped a game-closing 12-3 bomb to take the win.
Point guard Jeric Fortuna fired two free throws off a technical foul on Greg Slaughter, followed by a Melo Afuang jumper that gave UST a 74-73 bubble.
Karim Abdul scored on a putback off an Aljon Mariano miss to make it 76-73 before Ferrer, who also brought down 5 boards, laid the basket, 78-73.
Ryan Buenafe rifled in the only basket for the Eagles in that stretch, sinking a 3-pointer with 13.4 seconds remaining to give Ateneo hope.
Jeric Teng and Mariano buried 4 straight free throws as the Tigers sealed the win in their first finals appearance in the PCCL. -Rappler.com