UE turns back UST to book Final 4 playoff date with NU
MANILA, Philippines - The war is not over yet.
The University of the East Red Warriors continue to prove they're masters at staying alive as they extended their win streak to 5 and put the University of Santo Tomas Growling Tigers out of its misery, 78-73, on Tuesday, September 6 at the Smart Araneta Coliseum to set a playoff date with National University for the last Final Four spot in the men's basketball tournament of UAAP Season 77.
"We worked hard to be in this position right now," UE head coach Derrick Pumaren said. "We've been trying to stay alive and get the spot in the Final Four."
The Warriors picked apart the Tigers with a huge 24-15 third quarter run to pull away from a slim 36-35 halftime lead. They notched their biggest lead late in the same period, 58-45, after a Bong Galanza corner trey.
By the fourth quarter, which was the team's waterloo prior to their win streak, Pumaren had one simple instruction to his wards: "We have 10 minutes to stay live."
UE weathered UST's rally as the Tigers came to within 75-69 with 1:19 to go after a pair of Karim Abdul free throws. But consecutive errors on the part of UST sealed the deal for UE.
The graduating Bong Galanza led the way with 17 points, 7 rebounds and an assist. Dan Alberto and Roi Sumang added 15 and 10 points, respectively. Sumang delivered the final dagger as he sliced through to the hoop with 39.1 seconds remaining, pushing the score to 77-69.
UE managed an inspired second half showing as big man Charles Mammie finally saw action after he was benched for the first half for arriving late at the venue.
Prior to Mammie playing, UE mustered only 6 inside points for the first 20 minutes as UST took it to the rack relentlessly for 18 first half inside markers. But once Mammie manned the paint, the Warriors' scored 18 more inside points.
Mammie wound up with 7 points, 5 rebounds and 3 assists in 17.5 minutes of play.
"I was pissed at Charles for coming late, I was not gonna use him. You know me, discipline is the number one priority for this team," Pumaren said, citing a previous instance where he benched primary point guard Roi Sumang as disciplinary action for missing practice without valid reason.
"If I can do that to Roi (Sumang) I can do that to him (Mammie), even if we sacrifice losing this ballgame."
Pumaren said his team asked if they can play Mammie so he obliged but not without a warning for the 6-foot-8 center from Sierra Leone.
"I told him, 'You better pray that we win, if not that's gonna be the last time you wear a UE uniform because you're gonna be out of the team.'"
The Warriors will play the Bulldogs on Saturday where the winner will complete this season's Final Four cast which includes Ateneo, La Salle and FEU. That match will be the real test of UE's grit and will to survive.
"We know NU is gonna be a different team," Pumaren said. "I think we just gotta play tough defense against NU. They're very patient so we have to play for 24 seconds defensively when playing against them."
As for UST, graduating forward Aljon Mariano aptly showed the way as he ended his UAAP career with 18 points, 3 rebounds, an assist and two steals.
Mariano, however, fouled out with less than a minute to go in the game.
Ed Daquioag pitched in 16 points on 7-of-15 shooting as Karim Abdul battled foul trouble with 13 points and 4 boards.
Fellow graduating Tigers Paolo Pe and Kim Lo finished their college careers with 9 and 7 points, respectively, as the back-to-back finalists wrapped up a disappointing season with a 5-9 win-loss record and a 4-game losing skid.
UE (78): Galanza 17, Alberto 15, Sumang 10, Varilla 9, Javier 8, Mammie 7, Palma 4, Arafat 3, Guiang 2, Olayon 2, Jumao-as 1.
UST (73): Mariano 18, Daquioag 16, Abdul 13, Pe 9, Lo 7, Sheriff 6, Vigil 4, Basibas 0, Faundo 0, Gayosa 0, Lao 0, Subido 0.
Quarter scores: 15-17, 36-35, 60-50, 78-73.