The UST Growling Tigers avoided a winless UAAP Season 80 campaign after defeating the UE Red Warriors, 88-85, in their final game on Sunday at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.
“Masaya kasi hindi kami na-zero, and at the same time, ito ‘yung part ng rebuilding process namin, transition from two coaches na dumaan, may pinanggalingan na hindi maganda. Kailangan mabago ‘yun. Kailangan doon umpisahan,” head coach Boy Sablan said about their 1-13 finish.
Reggie Boy Basibas made crucial plays down the stretch as he generated 12 of his 21 points in the final frame alone, to go with nine rebounds, four assists, three steals, and a block.
Steve Akomo, for his part, sparked the Tigers with his 11 first quarter points before tallying a total of 18 markers on 6-for-8 shooting at the end of the contest. The big man also hauled down 20 boards and rejected six shots.
Sophomore Eric Caunan was also one of the players who stepped up in their final assignment as he finished with a double-double production of 14 points and 11 rebounds.
The score was locked at 67-all at the 6:20 mark of the fourth quarter. Basibas knocked down a three-pointer that gave them a four-point cushion but Alvin Pasaol responded with a triple of his own. Basibas, Caunan, and Akomo teamed up to make it 77-72 with three minutes left.
Jason Varilla completed a four-point play to put UE within a single point, 77-76. Basibas and Marvin Lee put the Tigers again on top by five, 84-79, but the Red Warriors refused to give up.
UE turned to their pressure defense to force UST to a crucial turnover that led to free throws for Mark Maloles, 84-83, with 19 ticks remaining.
Lee converted from the stripe then Akomo committed a goaltending violation on JC Cullar’s shot, 86-85, before Wendell de Guzman sealed the Tigers’ win with a couple of freebies.
Alvin Pasaol produced 18 points for UE in the loss, alongside five rebounds and five steals. Varilla and Maloles added 16 and 15 markers respectively.
The Red Warriors gained a bit of momentum midway through the season but they capped it off with four consecutive defeats to end up with a 3-11 slate.
UST 88 – Basibas 21, Akomo 18, Caunan 14, Lee 11, Garcia 10, De Guzman 6, Sta. Ana 4, Escalambre 2, Macasaet 2, Romero 0, Huang 0, Faundo 0.
UE 85 – Pasaol 18, Varilla 16, Maloles 15, Conner 10, Acuño 8, Cullar 7, Manalang 7, Bartolome 2, Olayon 2, Derige 0.
Quarters: 23-15, 43-39, 63-61, 88-85.