UNIVERSITY of Santo Tomas missed the services of coach Pido Jarencio, but played inspired basketball just the same to beat five-time UAAP champion Ateneo, 82-76, and grab the headstart of the Philippine Collegiate Champions League Finals at The Arena in San Juan on Tuesday.
Jarencio was not around for Game One of the best-of-three title series due to a bout with measles.
His absence hardly mattered though, as the Tigers took care of business and put the game away with eight straight unanswered points in the stretch.
UST can wrap up the best-of-three series and its first PCCL title with another win in Game Two on Thursday and avenge its two-game sweep at the hands of Ateneo in the recent UAAP men’s Finals.
“Yung players hanggang sa dulo hindi bumitaw,” said assistant coach Estong Ballesteros, who called the shots for the Tigers in the absence of Jarencio. “’Yung depensa talaga ang nagpapanalo sa amin.”
Kevin Ferrer led the Tigers with 18 points, Karim Abdul and Jeric Teng had 12 each, while Aljon Mariano and Melo Afuang had 11 and 10, respectively.
“Lahat ng players nag-step up. Sabi ko sa mga players dapat magka-pride tayo hindi pipitsugin na team ang kalaban namin,” said Ballesteros.
“Kung sino ang may puso, kung sino ang maganda ang depensa yun ang mananalo. Pag maganda ang depensa susunod na lang ang opensa,” he added.
The Tigers trailed 70-73, when they went on an 8-0 run to grab the upperhand on a Ferrer lay-up with 20.9 seconds to go.
The Blue Eagles threatened for the last time, 78-76, on a Ryan Buenafe three-pointer, but Teng and Mariano shot four straight points from the foul line to clinch it for UST.
Buenafe led all Ateneo scorers with 15 points.
UST (82) - Ferrer 18, Abdul 12, Teng 12, Mariano 11, Afuang 10, Fortuna 9, Daquioag 2, Vigil 2, Pe 2, Bautista 2
Ateneo (76) - Buenafe 15, Tiongson 13, Slaughter 12, Gonzaga 12, Ravena 11, Salva 8, Elorde 3, Golla 2, Pessumal 0, Chua 0, Porter 0, Capacio 0.
Quarterscores: 20-19, 39-42, 60-58, 82-76.