Maroons halt losing streak

THE University of Santo Tomas Growling Tigers were held scoreless for almost five minutes in the last period. 

They came to their senses in the remaining time and rallied, but still fell short as the University of the Philippines Fighting Maroons sustained its sturdy defense until the last moment to escape with a 71-69 triumph yesterday at the start of the second-round hostilities of the 80th University Athletic Association of the Philippines men’s basketball tournament at the Araneta Coliseum.

The Fighting Maroons, who were out-rebounded, 40-61, kept the prolific Marvin Lee from connecting with a triple twice as time expired.

Lee, who led UST with 17 points, tried to knock in a  triple but his attempt rimmed out, with Maroons Ibrahim Outtara and Juan Gomez De Liano deflecting the ball to the left side.

Chris Vito and Felix Jaboneta rushed to the open left corner just in time to keep Lee from making a second three-point attempt as time winded down.

When it was over, Jaboneta and Jun Manzo showed the way for the Fighting Maroons with 12 and 11 points, respectively, and the Diliman-based dribblers went on to post their fourth win in eight matches.

“It was the third close game we had. But we were able to make a stop in the last possession,” said UP coach Bo Perasol. 

UST remained winless after eight matches.

The Maroons bounced back after three straight setbacks, improving their record at fifth spot.

UP was up, 61-55, at the start of the fourth. It moved further ahead by 11 on Javi De Liano’s triple and Manzo’s driving shot for a 66-55 count, with 6:02 left.

Four charities from Jorem Soriano and Lee then started UST’s rally in the remaining 4:27 to close the gap to 59-66.

With 1:28 left, UST trimmed UP’s lead down to 64-68, off another trey from Soriano.

UST then forced two turnovers in the last 11 seconds and Marvin Romero scored on a drive, and Lee shot a trey as UST came close, 69-70.

Manzo then canned in a split charity with 9.2 seconds to go to give UP a two-point lead, 71-69, in the closing seconds.

Meanwhile, Bernadeth Pons and Cherry Rondina, two of the country’s best sand court women’s players, will be at the opposite sides once more as Far Eastern University and defending champion University of Santo Tomas dispute the outright Finals berth today in the UAAP Season 80 beach volleyball tournament at the Sands SM By The Bay.

Both sporting identical 6-0 slates, the Lady Tamaraws and the Tigresses will dispute the outright slot in the best-of-three championship at 3 p.m.  

The loser will drop at No. 2 and hold the twice-to-beat bonus in the step-ladder semifinals.

Pons and Rondina were club teammates in the off-season and played together for the Philippines in last month’s Southeast Asian Games beach volleyball tournament.

“Si Rondina, hindi basta-basta magpapatalo. Kahit sinasabi na bago ang partner niya, kaya niyang dalhin iyon,” said Pons, who has been with the FEU beach volley team right from the start.

“May advantage kami sa kanila kasi matagal na kaming magkasama ni Kyla (Atienza) sa beach volley. So iyon ang advantage namin na kailangang maipakita namin sa Thursday. Hindi madaling laban kasi dikdikan iyon. Gagawin namin ‘yung part namin. Gagawin namin ang best namin,” she added.

Rondina, a two-time MVP, has Caitlyn Viray, as her partner this year for UST.     

De La Salle’s Tin Tiamzon and May Luna (3-3) and Ateneo’s Bea de Leon and Jules Samonte (2-4) collide at 3:30 p.m., with the Lady Spikers gunning for the last semis berth. A win by the Lady Eagles will force a playoff against their fierce rivals for the No. 4 slot in the step-ladder semifinals.

Also in the semis is the pair of Diana Carlos and Ayel Estrañero of University of the Philippines, which is making its first appearance since 2012 when Aia del Mundo and Pau Genido finished fourth.     

In the men’s division, the Bulldogs’ Bryan Bagunas and James Natividad are a win away of gaining an outright passage to the best-of-three Finals.

Unbeaten in six contests NU will go for the championship slot against UP at 5:30 p.m.

Titleholder UST and FEU are in joint second with 5-1 record.  The Growling Tigers and the Tamaraws clash for the No. 2 ranking in the semifinals at 5 p.m.

Games Saturday (at the Araneta Coliseum)
2 p.m. UE vs NU
4 p.m. Ateneo vs Adamson

Topics: University of Santo Tomas Growling Tigers , University of the Philippines Fighting Maroons , 80th University Athletic Association of the Philippines men’s basketball tournament
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