UNIVERSITY of Santo Tomas earned a return trip to the finals after beating National University, 64-55, on Sunday in the UAAP Season 78 men’s basketball tournament at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.
Louie Vigil led the Growling Tigers to the Final Four victory with a career-high 19 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists as UST earned the right to face Far Eastern University in the finals starting on Wednesday.
The best-of-three finals between the two teams with the best records at the end of the two-round eliminations also set the stage for the first UST-FEU finals since 1979 in the country's premier college league.
Vigil's near-triple-double typified a strong performance by the top-seeded Tigers, whose confidence will be bolstered by their sweep of the season meetings with the Tamaraws.
“Kahit naka-dalawa kami sa kanila, elimination ‘yun,” said UST coach Bong Dela Cruz after the Tigers reached the finals for the third time in four years. “Magpe-prepare lang kami tapos tingnan natin sa Wednesday.”
The UST win also put an end to the reign of the NU Bulldogs, which earned the fourth spot in the Final Four by winning the all-important games of the elimination.
Kevin Ferrer had 11 points while Jam Sheriff added 10 points for the Growling Tigers, who led all the way in the game against the dethroned champions.
Paolo Javelona had 17 points for the Bulldogs but NU’s top star Gelo Alolino was limited to only six points on a 1-of-17 shooting from the field.
NU also had to resort to fouling Sheriff late in the fourth quarter in an attempt to come back but to no avail, guaranteeing that a new champion will be crowned after this season.
UST limited NU to just eight points in the second period as the Growling Tigers pulled away for a 30-20 halftime lead. Santo Tomas led by as many as 16 points in the game.
UST (64) — Vigil 19, Ferrer 11, Sheriff 10, Daquioag 8, Abdul 6, Lee 5, Bonleon 5, Faundo 0, Lao 0.
NU (55) — Javelona 17, Alejandro 8, Diputado 7, Aroga 7, Alolino 6, Javillonar 5, Neypes 3, Celda 2, Abatayo 0, Salim 0, Morido 0.
Quarterscores: 15-12, 30-20, 44-32, 64-55.