MANILA, Philippines – The UST Growling Tigers ended their UAAP Season 82 elimination round on a high note with an 80-74 escape against the also-ran Adamson Soaring Falcons at the Ynares Center in Antipolo City on Saturday, October 26.
With the win, the Tigers clinched at least a playoff for a Final Four spot with an 8-6 record while also keeping their twice-to-beat hopes alive.
The Tigers, though, need to wait how the rest of the games will unfold as UP, FEU and La Salle all remain in the running for the last 3 semifinal berths. Unbeaten Ateneo had already put a lock on the No. 1 spot.
Rookie standout Mark Nonoy came through the clutch, starring in key runs that helped the Tigers post a double-digit lead in the second half before fending off the Falcons' comeback bid.
The Falcons fell to 4-9 – the 9 defeats already matching multi-titled head coach Franz Pumaren's worst finish in the collegiate level with a game left to play.
Nonoy led the way for UST with 17 points, 8 rebounds and 5 assists off the bench while Soulemane Chabi Yo chipped in a 16-marker, 15-board double-double.
"Hell of a game because we were tight. All of us,” said UST head coach Aldin Ayo, noting that the game was a learning experience for the 9 rookies "on how to handle pressure."
Both teams went at each other for the entire first half, with UST seizing a 43-42 edge after a last-second triple by Rhenz Abando.
Joem Sabandal, however, capped his career-high performance with back-to-back treys midway through the 3rd to give Adamson a 51-47 lead.
Unfazed, UST finished off the frame with an 18-4 attack, highlighted by back-to-back triples by Nonoy.
The Tigers then pushed the lead to 12, 67-55, off a layup by Chabi Yo to start the 4th. However, Adamson came alive with 12 straight markers capped by consecutive buckets by Simon Camacho midway through the frame.
But UST again erupted for a crucial 9-2 run, 76-69, capped by a Sherwin Concepcion four-point play followed by a Renzo Subido dagger triple with 1:36 left in regulation.
Jerrick Ahanmisi sank a desperation three in the last 11 seconds to pull within 3, but Subido calmly sank the game-sealing free throws off the duty foul for the 79-74 lead.
Sabandal paced Adamson with a career-high 18 points off the bench with a 4-of-5 clip from three while the struggling Ahanmisi added 11 markers on a 4-of-13 shooting.
UST 80 – Nonoy 17, Chabi Yo 16, Abando 13, Subido 12, Concepcion 8, Paraiso 5, Cansino 4, Ando 2, Huang 2, Bataller 1.
Adamson 74 – Sabandal 18, Ahanmisi 11, Camacho 10, Douanga 7, Chauca 6, Lastimosa 6, Fermin 4, Manlapaz 3, Mojica 3, Bernardo 2, Magbuhos 2, Yerro 2, Flowers 0.
Quarters: 26-22, 43-42, 65-55, 80-74.