MANILA, Philippines - What is the greater illusion: University of Sto. Tomas at 3-0, or University of the Philippines, beaten by the Growling Tigers, but still unbowed at 2-1 at the 78th season of the UAAP?
The two teams did not play like the Separation of Church and State trumpeted in social media, or as if they are leading the country’s most popular student cage tournament.
They played as if the thunderstorm that hit Metro Manila was strongest at the Mall of Asia.
UP fought a superb defensive battle as can be seen by the first half score, 21-16 for the Tigers. This score was usual decades ago in the late 1940s and mid-1950s era where the 30-second shot clock was absent and where teams from the emerging UAAP dominated the national intercollegiate tournament.
After ending the third quarter with a 52-50 lead, UST began to work behind Ed Daquioag and Kevin Ferrer, but the Iskolar ng Bayan quintet continued to nip at the Tigers’ heels.
As the battle entered the crucial phase, memory restored the titanic UST and UP clashes in the 1984 and 1985 UAAP where the shorter Fighting Maroons defeated their foes, which had two 6-foot-5 players in Vegildo Babilonia and Julian Tomacruz, at the steamy Rizal Memorial Coliseum or the Loyola Gym.
UST mentor Charlie Badion, feared for his bruising defense and subtle passing skills during the 1950s, the height of Philippine basketball rule in Asia, scowled and shot dagger looks at his men who were getting beaten to the ball by the scrappier Diliman quintet.
At the other end, UP coach Joe Lipa barked his orders in English, capped by a loud cry: “Deny!” as his men were defending, in a way, like Badion used to do in his prime.
That was Lipa’s era, when UP was consistently fighting for a place in the UAAP finals—where the top two teams meet after a double-round robin except if the leader was unbeaten, restored State U’s stature in basketball. UP was at the forefront of developing basketball in the country, first by being one of the founding members of the NCAA, now in its 91st season, and then the UAAP.
From UP emerged Chito Calvo, acknowledged as the father of Philippine basketball, who shone at La Salle and helmed the first Olympic cage squad in 1936 and the second one in 1958. He was one of the founders of the Asian Basketball Confederation.
But the search for memory was jarred as Daquioag and Ferrer sparked the Growling Tigers. There was a faint smile on the faces some UP track and field alumni when Renzo Subido, son of long time coach Pedro Subido, fouled Diego Dario.
With 79 seconds left, Daquioag was fouled and two charities pushed UST ahead, 59-54. UP fouled to force UST to miss foul throws and regain the momentum. But UP’s hustle could not reap its rewards, and UST held on for the win, 67-59.
Will UST continue to be perched at first place or will UP sustain its best start since 2009? Will the ghosts of failed campaigns return and bring the Growling Tigers down to earth or will UP finally, after 29 years, contest the UAAP cage title? – Rappler.com