28 September 2013, 9:50 p.m. – IN THE words of Growling Tiger Kevin Ferrer, the victory was destiny.
Combining grit and championship experience, the Tigers roared back in the UAAP Finals after upsetting the National University (NU) Bulldogs, 76-69, in their winner-take-all game at the Mall of Asia Arena Saturday.
Up next for the Tigers is De La Salle University, a familiar foe during UST’s glory years in the 90s. Game 1 of the best-of-three finals will be on Oct. 2, 3:30 p.m., at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.
“I’m really speechless. I never thought we’d make it to the finals,” said an emotional Pido Jarencio, who was seen breaking down in the dying minutes of the game.
“Marami ring nagduda sa kakayahan ko.”
But Jarencio and the Tigers proved the critics wrong.
Ferrer, who finished with 18 points, unloaded a three-pointer that gave UST a 62-61 lead in the last four minutes. They never looked back.
John Sheriff later delivered the final dagger with a breakaway layup in the last minute for a 69-61 UST advantage.
The Tigers and the Bulldogs traded baskets early in the payoff period. Nico Javelona and Robin Rono knocked in back-to-back treys to give NU a four-point lead.
But Jeric Teng, who led the Tigers with 19 points, converted on several turnaround jumpers to tie the game at 59.
In the third frame, Ferrer made two of his three treys to give UST a 50-44 lead. But NU quickly responded with a buzzer-beating jumper from Jethro Rosario to trim the deficit to one, 49-50.
The Tigers established their biggest lead, 29-19, in the second quarter. But NU later went on a 12-2 run behind the shooting of Gelo Alolino to tie the game at 31-all tally at the half.
Former MVP Bobby Ray Parks led the Bulldogs with 15 points.
Paul Kennedy A. Lintag