The UST Growling Tigresses, vying for back-to-back titles in the UAAP women’s 3×3 basketball tournament, will navigate the competition without reigning MVP Eka Soriano but aim for continued success with a revamped lineup featuring two newcomers, including Mythical Five member Kent Pastrana.

Pastrana has stepped in for Soriano, who is still recovering from an ankle injury she suffered during the 5×5 tournament’s Final Four. She joins last year’s core lineup of veterans Tacky Tacatac, Tantoy Ferrer, and Rocel Dionisio, along with rookie Cee-jay Maglupay.

“We want to give another championship sa University for the 3×3 tournament, so ‘yan ang lineup na prinepare namin for this season,” head coach Haydee Ong told the Varsitarian

Pastrana, who led the Tigresses in scoring in the 5×5 tournament with 17.89 points per game, expressed difficulties in adjusting to the different style of play in 3×3 basketball.

“Hindi naman siya ganong kadali kasi iba ang setup ng 5×5 sa 3×3,” she told the Varsitarian. “More on mental ang ginagamit sa 3×3. Medyo mahirap siya pero nakayanan naman mag-adjust.”

Ong said the Tigresses resumed training in late January and also participated in pre-season tournaments such as the G’Ballers League and Manila Cup.

She said effective communication is crucial for success in the fast-paced 3×3 tournament.

“Sa 3×3 kasi, mabilis ‘yong transition from your offense to defense, so parang wala kang masyadong adjustment. In fact, ‘yong coaching, bawal sa 3×3,” she said. 

For Ferrer, the reigning Finals MVP in 5×5 play, adapting was not as challenging due to her extensive experience as a veteran under Ong’s system.

“Alam ko lang kung kailan ako maglalaro as a 5×5 or 3×3 na player…’Yon siguro ang isang advantage kapag senior ka,” Ferrer told the Varsitarian. “Ang daling mag-adjust, ang dali mo nang ma-pick up ‘yong pinapagawa nila coach, kasi nga antagal mo na rito.”

Ong said the team would rely more on outside shooting in this tournament, a strategy that Ferrer indicated she would prioritize to become a more significant threat on the court.

“This time, more on sa labas talaga,” Ferrer said. “Para sa akin, adjustment ko parang kapag kinukuha ko sa ilalalim  lalabas ako sa labas para tumira. More outside shooting compared sa 5×5 na second-chance points sa ilalim, perimeter.

The Tigresses anticipate stiffer competition in this 3×3 tournament. However, they intend to stick to Ong’s system, which proved successful in winning them the 5×5 tournament.

“Kung ano ‘yong game plan talaga, ‘yon lang ang gagawin namin. Tiwala kami sa kung ano ang sinasabi ng coaches sa’min,” Pastrana said. “Gagawin pa rin namin kung ano ‘yong best na laro para makuha pa rin ulit ang championship.”

This 3×3 tournament marks Tantoy Ferrer’s final campaign in the UAAP.

“Sana mag-exit pa ako nang mas maganda. Nakuha na namin ‘yong 5×5 na championship. Sana ngayong 3×3 makuha din namin,” she said. “Alam naman namin na gagawin namin ‘yonh best namin para mag-back-to-back.” 

UST will face Ateneo and UP to open its campaign on May 2, Thursday, at the Ayala Malls Manila Bay. Meanwhile, the Junior Growling Tigresses, composed of Grachelle Boteros, Barby Jean Dajao, Gin Kayla Relliquete, Karylle Sierba and Janna Faith Wenceslao, will battle Adamson University. 

The Season 86 3×3 basketball tournament will feature a round-robin format in the elimination round, unlike last year, which used a pool format.