MANILA, Philippines - It's a familiar sight, one that happens when the University of Sto. Tomas Growling Tigers are nearing victory.
Kevin Ferrer, after making a three, looked up to the UST crowd and lashed his tongue out, basking in the moment.
On Sunday, July 20, that moment made its first appearance in the 77th season of the UAAP, as Ferrer hit clutch threes to guide his Growling Tigers past the Far Eastern University Tamaraws, 69-67, at the Smart Araneta Coluseum.
Ferrer finished with 18 points and made only two threes, though both came at critical moments.
The win improved UST to 1-1 ahead of its matchup with the Adamson Soaring Falcons, and gave rookie head coach Bong Dela Cruz his first college coaching career win.
"Na execute yung game plan namin at nga deliver yung mga bata," Dela Cruz mentioned after the game.
(We executed our game plan and the boys delivered.)
"Pinakita nila paano mag laro yung Tigers."
(They displayed how the Tigers play.)
After being called for an unsportsmanlike foul to open the fourth quarter, two straight baskets and an assist by Mark Belo spearheaded a 6-0 run for FEU that put them ahead by three, 56-53. UST tried to respond but Karim Abdul missed a bunny at the rim and threw the ball away on the ensuing possessions, giving the Tamaraws more chances to extend their lead.
However, the Growling Tigers responded by going on an 8-2 run, getting within one in the process. Mike Tolomia tried to stop the bleeding with a step-back three, but misfired. Ferrer then came down and hit two straight threes, putting his team up by five, 67-62, with 1:57 to go.
Abdul finished with 16 for UST while Kent Lao had 14 markers. Belo spearheaded FEU with 19 points while Tolomia had 14.
After Russel Escoto's 3-ball cut the deficit to two, a pair of misses by Ferrer gave Far Eastern University an opportunity to regain the lead. However, FEU coughed the ball away, leading to an easy Lao layup that sealed the win.
"We will prepare to win," Dela Cruz commented on his team's next game versus Adamson, who are winless at 0-2. "Basta mag improve kami every game." (As long as we improve every game.)
Despite keeping Tolomia scoreless in the opening minutes of the game, UST couldn't stop the production of the Tamaraws' big men. Four minutes into the contest, the Growling Tigers trailed by three, 7-4, with Anthony Hargrove playing well early.
UST got its first taste of the lead since the score was 2-0 when Ferrer and Lao converted consecutive put-back baskets, 12-11, with 2:30 left in the first period. Tolomia countered by getting an easy lay-up on the break to make the count 13-12, which turned out to be the score of the game entering the second quarter.
The second quarter's first four minutes featured a series of misses by both sides, as only Aljon Mariano and Tolomia managed to convert field goals. Eventually the Tigers broke their dry spell, even managing to gain a six-point lead follow a 3-ball by Ed Daquioag and a bucket inside the paint by Abdul, 25-19.
The Growling Tigers maintained their momentum to close the second quarter, increasing the lead to as much as 10 before a Carl Bryan Cruz lay-up put a stop to a 6-0 run.
At the half, the score read 31-26 in favor of UST.
The Tamaraws outscored the Tigers in the paint, 38-32, but UST had more perimeter points, 30-21. FEU also turned the ball over 28 times, while Sto. Tomas finished with 14 assists - 11 better than its last game.
Ferrer's jumper opened the third quarter for University of Sto. Tomas, giving the team an eight-point lead. However, FEU countered right away as Tolomia woke up from his slumber, putting up six straight points to tie the match.
A corner triple by Inigo at the 6:06 mark put the Tamaraws ahead again, 38-35, but Lao responded by hitting a 3-ball of his own. Both squads then proceeded to exchange baskets, but it were the Growling Tigers that got back on top thanks to a continuation play by rookie Renzo Subido. (RELATED: What adding Renzo Subido does for UST)
With 2:06 left in the quarter, an unsportsmanlike foul was assessed to Daquioag for taking a shot at an FEU player on the break. The proceeding free throws cut the deficit for the Tamaraws, but a Subido triple awarded UST a 53-50 lead entering the final quarter.
Far Eastern University's loss puts them at a tie with UST for fourth place in the league standings with identical records. -Rappler.com