UST UST players celebrate. UAAP photo

UST regains women’s basketball crown

December 7, 2023 Theodore P. Jurado 147 views

UNIVERSITY of Santo Tomas reclaimed the bragging rights as the most successful UAAP women’s basketball program, while snapping National University’s seven-year reign with a 71-69 win in a thrilling finale yesterday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

Winning the best-of-three title series, 2-1, the Tigresses ended a 17-year title drought, as they unseated the Lady Bulldogs in the throne by showing heart and composure up to the very end.

“NU raised the bar for women’s basketball. Seven consecutive years. It’s one hell of a program. Beating them today and never giving up, that says a lot for these special ladies. They deserve to be UAAP champions,” said coach Haydee Ong after UST annexed its 12th title overall, surpassing Far Eastern University’s 11.

Nikki Villasin scored the game’s biggest basket, a fastbreak lay-up that gave the Tigresses a 71-69 lead with 11.8 seconds left.

The Lady Bulldogs tried to steal the win and extend their stranglehold, but Tin Cayabyab missed a three-pointer in the dwindling seconds.

UST then erupted into celebration after the final buzzer has sounded, while NU’s side was simply stunned seeing its domination that started in 2014 came to a close.

It was a ending that the Lady Bulldogs that they didn’t want, as the Bustillos-based side squad had several 15-point leads in the second half, the last was at 61-46 on a Pringle Fabruada lay-up late in the third period.

Finals MVP Tantoy Ferrer then presided UST’s stirring fightback, scoring nine of her 19 points in the payoff period, outscoring the entire NU squad, which only had eight.

“Im really lost for words. Im really so happy for the girls, sila may gawa nito,” said Ong.

“We were down big, 15 points ,sabi ko sa kanila don’t give up, stick together, unti-untiin natin until fourth quarter, and NU gave us a lot of chances para makahabol kami,” she added.

The Tigresses thrived in do-or-die games this season. Dragged to a deciding game by University of the Philippines in the Final Four, UST showed resiliency to advance to the league’s biggest stage.

Ferrer, who also grabbed 14 rebounds and dished out two assists, was simply happy to help the Tigresses make a return on top.

“Alam kong matagal mo nang inaantay ito coach,” said Ferrer.

“Alam kong 2018 pa lang coach, nung pumasok kami nina Tacky (Tacatac), sabi ko, ‘Coach, hindi puwede kaming e-exit kami dito sa UST team na walang championship na ibibigay sa iyo. Sa wakas coach nabalik na natin yung korona sa España’,” the forward out of Calapandayan, Zambales added.

Kent Pastrana scored 12 of her 16 points in the second half while Villasin logged 12 points, four boards and two assists in her final game for UST.

The series was decided by an average of 2.33 points as the Tigresses took Game 1, 76-72, ending a 20-game losing streak against the Bulldogs.

NU the forced the decider with a series-tying 72-70 victory last Sunday.

Cayabyab finished with 18 points and four rebounds, Fabruada added 13 points and four boards, while Karl Pingol added 11 points and six rebounds for the Lady Bulldogs.

Camille Clarin, who averaged 18 points and seven assists in the first two games, was a big letdown in the decider, scoring only two points, all from the foul line, on a woeful 0-of-11 shooting from the field.

In juniors action, Doy Dungo had 13 points, six rebounds and five assists, while JB Lim flirted with a triple-double of 10 points, eight steals and seven boards as UST upended La Salle-Zobel, 75-62, for its third straight win after a season-opening defeat and gain a share of second place.

Defending champion FEU-Diliman needed the heroics of Cabs Cabonillas to withstand the gallant stand of UP Integrated School, 84-82.

The Baby Tamaraws moved up in a tie with the Junior Archers at 3-1 in fourth place. The Junior Fighting Maroons, meanwhile, remain winless in four games.

The scores:

UST (71) – Ferrer 19, Pastrana 16, Villasin 12, Tacatac 9, Bron 4, Dionisio 4, Santos 4, Ambos 3, Maglupay 0, Soriano 0, Amatong 0, Serrano 0.
NU (69) – Cayabyab 18, Fabruada 13, Pingol 11, Berberabe 9, Surada 9, Canuto 5, Clarin 2, Konateh 2, Bartolo 0, Betanio 0, Solis 0.
Quarterscores: 19-19, 32-44, 47-61, 71-69.