FAR Eastern University scored a 48-46 victory over University of Santo Tomas on Wednesday at Mall of Asia Arena to force a sudden death in the UAAP Season 82 women's basketball stepladder semis.
Fatima Quiapo picked the right time to churn out a career outing, lighting up with 18 points, 13 rebounds and four steals to lead the Lady Tamaraws to the victory.
But it almost wasn't to be after she was whistled with a free throw violation with 0.4 seconds left that kept the door open for the Golden Tigresses.
Fortunately, Clare Castro was able to stop Ruby Portillo's inbound alley-oop pass to Grace Irebu, forcing the winner-take-all match on Saturday at Smart Araneta Coliseum.
"Sabi ko sa kanila, 'Magpa-practice pa ba tayo?' Sabi nila, 'Oo!' Si Clare sabi din, 'May Sabado pa tayo!'," said coach Bert Flores.
Castro fired eight points, 15 rebounds, and two blocks to extend her collegiate career, while fellow seniors Valerie Mamaril, who had nine points and five boards, and Choy Bahuyan, who got eight points, five rebounds, and two assists, made significant contributions for FEU.
The Lady Tamaraws were unwavering after staring at a four-point deficit, 43-39, with 7:08 left, fighting back and even grabbing the 47-43 advantage with 1:59 remaining.
Portillo's trey cut the lead down to one, 47-46, but the Golden Tigresses failed to get the lead back, with Grace Irebu's pass to Jeorge Panti being well read by the defense in the waning seconds.
"Sinabi ko na huwag tayo mag-iiyakan. Walo yung ga-graduate sa atin at hindi pwedeng mag-iyakan tayo dahil may Game Two pa," said Flores.
Portillo powered UST with 12 points, five rebounds, five assists and three steals, as Irebu struggled with her right shoulder injury yet still collected 10 points, 12 boards and three blocks.
The Golden Tigresses sorely missed Tacky Tacatac, who played for only two minutes after suffering an apparent right MCL strain, as well as Eka Soriano, who was ejected for a pair of technical fouls in the fourth period.
FEU 48 - Quiapo 18, Mamaril 9, Bahuyan 8, Castro 8, Delos Santos 2, Jumuad 2, Abat 1, Adriano 0, Antiola 0, Bastatas 0, Vidal 0.
UST 46 - Portillo 12, Irebu 10, Ferrer 5, Panti 5, Soriano 5, Gandalla 4, Rivera 3, Javier 2, Callangan 0, Sangalang 0, Tacatac 0.
Quarterscores: 15-19; 26-30; 35-39; 48-46.