DEEP in his heart, team captain Jeric Teng knew University of Santo Tomas has all the tools to make history in the UAAP men’s basketball tournament.
And the Tigers did just that on Saturday night, their date with destiny coming in the form of a 76-69 win over National University to earn a return trip to the Finals opposite De La Salle.
The Espana-based school became the first No. 4 team to topple a top-seeded team since the league institutionalized the Final Four format in 1994.
As the top-seeded team, the Bulldogs enjoyed a twice-to-beat advantage against the Tigers, who who also had to beat five-time champion Ateneo in a sudden-death game just to reach the Final Four.
UST stunned NU in their first meeting, 71-62, to set up the do-or-die encounter, after which Teng’s confidence grew that his team is about to accomplish something special.
“We feel blessed and we feel grateful kay God, He made this possible. Pero when we won Game One (against NU), sabi ko talaga sa kanila (teammates ko), 'Tayo `yung unang gagawa ng history na tatalo sa number one (seed),” he recalled.
Despite being sidelined for almost a month due to a shoulder injury and later on, by a pulled hamstring, the 2009 Rookie of the Year never lost hope that UST will make the Finals again opposite La Salle and younger brother Jeron Teng.
“Noong bumalik ako from my injury, sabi ko sana kahit papano, kung ano man mangyari, sa Finals sana mag La Salle-UST,” he said.
“Pero andon na rin naman tayo sana championship na,” added the older of the Teng siblings.
The King Tiger, however, admitted his teammates wanted it more than last year, where they reached the Finals only to lose to Ateneo via a two-game sweep.
“Sa pinagdaanan namin this year, mas gusto namin manalo this year than last year,” he disclosed, citing the struggles the Tigers had to endure this season.
“Puro injury talaga kami lalo na ako. I never imagined na makakalaro pa ako. I thought na hindi na ako makakalaro for the rest of the season,” he said.
“Thankfully unti-unti nababalik ko na `yung laro ko. Basta I'm just blessed to be able to play and umabot kami ng Finals.”
Asked about his match-up with his younger brother Jeron, Jeric said it will all boil down to who wants it more.
“Wala naman 'yun (rivalry). Siyempre gustong-gusto na niya mag-champion kasi medyo matagal na rin na hindi nag-tsa-champion ang La Salle.
“Pero kami gustong-gusto na rin namin lalo pa na maganda ang tinatakbo ng team namin so magiging maganda talaga ang Finals,” he said.