With its season and record on the line, National University denied the University of Santo Tomas a piece of history in a pulsating 72-70 victory, to force a winner-take-all Game 3 in the UAAP Season 86 Women’s Basketball Finals, Sunday at the SMART Araneta Coliseum.
The seven-time champion NU and UST collide one last time for all the marbles on Wednesday, 12 p.m., still at the Big Dome.
“Buhay pa kami. Buhay pa kami,” said head coach Aris Dimaunahan of the Bulldogs, knowing that a loss would have ended their dominant seven-year run in the UAAP and crowned a new champion in the process.
“Today’s mindset was just to stay alive, stay in the present. We don’t even think of Game 1, we don’t even think of Game 3. Our main focus is Game 2 only. Proud of the ladies for doing a great job today turning the tide around, playing for each other and walang nag quit sa amin,” the former interim Blackwater head coach continued.
In its seven straight titles, NU never played a Game 3 until this season. The last time it figured in a rubber match was in Season 76, where it lost to De La Salle University.
And just like Game 1 last Wednesday which saw the Tigresses escape with a 76-72 triumph to end a 20-game skid to the Lady Bulldogs, this game was another nip-and-tuck affair.
Ann Pingol’s post move gave NU the six-point lead with 2:40 to go, 70-64, but Tantoy Ferrer rallied UST back to within two with a layup and two free throws, 68-70.
With 1:01 remaining, Angel Surada dribbled to the middle of the paint and drained a short jumper to put the Lady Bulldogs on top by two possessions, 72-68, before Kent Pastrana was fouled in the next play and drilled both her foul line shots with 47.8 seconds left, 70-72.
Then missed chances for both squads followed.
Maymay Canuto’s jumper to increase the lead for NU was a tad to the right, leading to a UST fastbreak with Pastrana seemingly about to score the game-tying layup but Canuto hustled back and was able to swipe the ball with the former having the last touch.
In the next play, the Growling Tigresses needed to foul twice to hit penalty, ultimately sending Camille Clarin – an 80 percent foul stripe shooter – to the line with 11.5 seconds left.
Clarin missed both her free throws to give UST one more chance but Pastrana’s three-pointer from the left corner was well-guarded, falling short.
“We just had to remind ourselves why we do it, why we love the sport so much, and what’s really at stake. I think when we figured out why we’re doing it, that’s what gave us the heart to go out and execute until the last minute,” said Clarin, who finished with 18 points and eight assists.
Pingol delivered 14 points and five rebounds while Pringle Fabruada, who only had four points in Game 1, notched 13 points and four rebounds.
Surada and Berberabe also made crucial contributions with the former getting eight points, 10 rebounds, three steals, and three blocks, while the latter added five points, 10 rebounds, and three steals.
Rocel Dionisio, a sophomore, had a big game for the Growling Tigresses with 15 points and eight rebounds.
Pastrana and Ferrer also added 15 points apiece while Tacky Tacatac produced 12 points and five steals.