Posted Feb 16th 2014
Bulldogs, Tigers slug it out in "historic" do-or-die battle
By Anthony Divinagracia Posted Sep 28th 2013
Mark this day in UAAP history.
National University and University of Santo Tomas (US) shoot for the record books today as they grapple for the last Finals ticket in the 76th UAAP men’s basketball tournament at the MOA Arena.
The top-seeded Bulldogs and the Tigers battle for all the marbles one last time at 4 p.m. to determine who will face De La Salle University in the best-of-three Finals.
For NU, the moment has come to end 43 years of absence from the championship round since its last finals appearance way back in 1970. The stakes could be higher for the Bulldogs, who are now in a better position to reclaim the basketball Holy Grail they last held eons ago in 1954.
Immortality also beacons for the re-energized Tigers, who will gun no less for a second straight finals return by becoming the first fourth-seed in the Final Four era to take out a top-ranked team and reach the title round.
UST moved a step closer to nailing that feat after caging the twice-to-beat Bulldogs, 71-62, last Sunday.
With almost everyone contributing from the get-go, the Tigers kept the Bulldogs noosed out for the rest of the first half en route to an imposing 39-23 halftime lead.
But the Bulldogs slowly regained their form entering the second half, cutting the deficit to as low as 58-63 midway through the fourth quarter.
Veteran captain Jeric Teng though had other things mind as he rifled in a gutsy three-point shot that practically doused the Bulldogs’ uprising and gave UST one more day to fight.
“When we reached the Final Four, our mindset was we have nothing to lose. Wala sa amin dapat ang pressure. Nasa kanila (NU), kaya kami laro lang maayos,” UST coach Pido Jarencio said.
“Pero since nandito na kami, saying naman kaya lulubos-lubusin na namin. Nagpe-peak kami at the right time. Hanggang dulo lalaban kami.”
Kevin Ferrer led UST with 14 points while brandishing his defensive mitts in limiting NU main man Ray Parks to just the same number of output in 30 minutes of action.
Parks, who shot just 6-of-11, lashed back at Ferrer for going “too low” on defense, complaining how the 6-foot-4 UST swingman grabbed his injured fingers and employing other “dirty tactics” to contain him.
Aside from Ferrer and Teng, UST will rely once more on Aljon Mariano, Karim Abdul, Ed Daquioag, and Clark Bautista to finish the job.
“We should be more mentally tough in dealing with them. They (UST) have their old confidence back and they know what it takes to win in the Final Four. We should be able to regain our composure and learn not to panic,” NU coach Eric Altamirano said.
Gelo Alolino, Emmanuel Mbe, Dennice Villamor, and Robin Rono among others are expected to backstop Parks anew and eventually rebound from their so-so performance against the Tigers.
The game will air live on Studio 23, BALLS HD 167 and uaapsports.tv with a same day replay tonight at 8 p.m. on BALLS SkyCable channel 34/ Destiny Cable channel 36.