IN the end, championship experience, or the Tigers' lack of it, made Ateneo stand head above shoulders of University of Santo Tomas.
Jeric Teng, the Tigers’ star shooting guard, was the first to admit his team’s lack of poise in the entire UAAP men’s basketball Finals, specifically in the deciding Game Two on Thursday which the Eagles won, 65-62, before a crowd of 20,186 at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
The title-clinching win wasn’t in the bag for the defending champion Eagles until the final possession of the electrifying ballgame when Clark Bautista dished off a weak pass intended for Jeric Fortunata that was anticipated by Juami Tiongson.
The turnover was just one of the crucial three blunders the Tigers committed inside the final minute of the match.
“Experience,” said Teng when asked what he thought made the big difference during the game marked by three deadlocks and 10 lead changes. “They’ve (Eagles) been here a couple of times already, kami first time pa lang.”
Teng himself failed to make a perfect follow-up to his 25-point effort in UST’s 83-78 loss in Game One. The fourth-year guard was held to just nine points on 3-of-10 shooting from the field, including a 0-of-4 stint from three-point range.
In all, the Tigers struggled from the floor behind a 32.9 percent shooting (24-of-73). They also missed 10 of 17 free throws awarded them for a 41.2 percent clip.
In contrast, the Eagles had a 39.3 percent shooting (22-of-56), and 72 percent from the foul line (18-of-25).
“We failed to deliver when it counted the most. Sila alam na nila ang gagawin sa ganitong klase ng situation,” said Teng, whose lonely eyes obviously failed to hide his frustration.
“Ateneo deserved it. They were really a team. Malakas talaga sila.”
But with guard Jeric Fortuna and Carmelo Afuang the only ones not coming back for UST next season, Teng is hopeful the experience the Tigers gained will serve them in good stead a year from now.
“Definitely, this will serve as our motivation next season,” said Jeric, one of the two playing sons of former PBA player Alvin Teng. “Hopefully, makarating uli kami sa Finals, and kung papalarin, sana makapag-champion.”