UAAP Basketball

‘Mostly mental’: Tigresses end UST basketball’s string of heartbreaks

Philip Matel

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‘Mostly mental’: Tigresses end UST basketball’s string of heartbreaks

EUPHORIA. The UST Growling Tigresses celebrate their unlikely UAAP title romp.


As the league’s latest giant-slayer, the UST Growling Tigresses share their ‘BTS’ after taking down the seven-time champion NU Lady Bulldogs to bag the UAAP women’s basketball crown

MANILA, Philippines – The University of Santo Tomas, a school with a lengthy resume of UAAP basketball success but suffered heartbreaks in recent years, let out a massive sigh of relief when a team finally captured a title.

Showing fierce determination in Game 3, the Tigresses hacked out a huge 71-69 upset of the seven-time defending champion NU Lady Bulldogs to bag the UAAP Season 86 women’s basketball crown and end a 17-year championship drought on Wednesday, December 6.

“I think the belief in each other, the trust in the program and our ‘BTS’ – believe in each other; trusting in each other, the coaches, the system, the program; and surrender everything to God,” said Tigresses head coach Haydee Ong, who played for the team in the 1980s.

“Surrender everything and you’ll have a great outcome.”

UST last won a title in 2006 in both the men’s and women’s divisions.

This season, the Growling Tigers continued to wallow in misery, finishing at the tail end of the men’s basketball standings. 

But the Tigresses finally gave UST basketball fans something to cheer about as they delivered in one of the most thrilling games this season.

The Tigresses leaned on a late 13-2 run to pull the rug under NU’s feet to forge the comeback victory capped by Nikki Villasin’s game-winner with 6.5 seconds left.

“I shoot that shot every day at practice so I already knew,” Villasin said after the game.

“I can also see that shot a long time ago in my head when I first came to the Philippines [from the US] and I wanted to win the UAAP,” she added.

A suffocating stop on NU top scorer Tin Cayabyab’s three-point attempt ensued in the closing possession, ending almost two decades’ worth of waiting for UST.

UST had emerged from a 14-point deficit to start the fourth quarter and a 9-point hole with 4:10 minutes remaining.

Villasin ended the game with 12 points and 4 rebounds, ending her collegiate stint on a high note.

Finals MVP Tantoy Ferrer also played all out in her final year with a 19-point, 14-rebound effort, highlighted by 9 straight points that helped erase the Tigresses’ deficit in the last four minutes.

Ferrer, who sat out last season due to an ACL injury, came back with a vengeance as she averaged 15.7 points, 11.3 rebounds, 3.0 assists, and 1.3 steals in the series.

She even endured sickness after UST’s 72-70 Game 2 loss, which forced a do-or-die Game 3.

“[The comeback] was mostly mental, especially in a crucial game, and we shouldn’t let our emotions get the best of us, the officiating, the viewers, since it’s a huge factor for us,” said Ferrer.

“I told my teammates, once you step on the court, think of the coaches, listen to our teammates, and the chemistry will follow suit,” she continued.

Kent Pastrana, the former La Salle standout playing her first season in UST, fulfilled a promise to Ong before transferring schools.

“I’m happy to a point that I couldn’t explain what I feel, I thank coach Haydee since she really gave me her trust,” said Pastrana.

“My responsibilities were big since I promised [coach Haydee] that I would give her a championship,” she added.

“We did not waver until the end since you only win at the final buzzer – 40 minutes of hell, as coach would say.”

Now, they are in heaven. –

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