Tigresses book finals ticket after ousting Maroons in do-or-die match

Photo by Raymond Vince Manaloto/THE FLAME

THE UST Growling Tigresses are headed to the championship of the UAAP Season 86 women’s basketball tournament after surviving the UP Fighting Maroons, 87-83, in a rubber match on Saturday, Nov. 25.

It took the Tigresses three years to book their trip to the finals since Season 82, where they fell in two games against the seven-time defending champions NU Lady Bulldogs.

The win gives UST an opportunity to exact revenge on NU, which is returning to the finals after demolishing the Ateneo Blue Eagles last week.

“I would just like to commend my team who really worked hard for this finals appearance. It’s a team effort, everyone worked from the start to the finish,” UST head coach Haydee Ong said in an interview.

Both teams converted their field goals in the opening salvo in the win-or-go-home game, which was held at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

UP guard Kaye Pesquera hit back-to-back triples to get an early four-point lead, 2-6. However, UST halted UP’s short-lived momentum after throwing a scoring barrage to take charge of the matchup, 36-27.

The Tigresses continued their offensive barrage, hitting five three-pointers capped off by UST co-captain Tacky Tacatac’s triple to build a 14-point advantage, 53-39. The Fighting Maroons responded with an 8-3 run to cut their deficit to nine points, 56-47, at the end of the first half.

Tigress guard Kent Pastrana drained a triple to give her team the largest lead of the game with 17 points, 67-50. But UP rallied back with a 16-3 run topped off with a Louna Ozar trey, 69-66.

UST roared back with five straight points from reigning MVP Eka Soriano and Pastrana to go into the final frame with an eight-point lead, 74-66.

But the Diliman-based squad managed to trim the lead to only three points, 86-83 after Ozar and Pesquera sank four straight charities.

Minding its 88-80 overtime loss in Game 1, the España-based squad did not let its lead slip away as Tigress guard Brigette Santos sank a free throw to secure the victory.

Five players scored in double-digits for UST. Pastrana led the way with 18 points, five rebounds and an assist while Santos contributed 14 markers, four boards and a couple of dimes.

Nikki Villasin added 12 points and four assists, while Tantoy Ferrer and Tacatac had 11 points apiece.

Five players also scored in double-digits for UP. Favour Onoh had a double-double with 21 points and 14 rebounds while Pesquera finished with 20 markers, two boards and three steals.

Ozar, Achrissa Maw and Christie Bariquit had 13, 15 and 11 points, respectively.

The Growling Tigresses are set to clash with the Lady Bulldogs in a best-of-three series at the Mall of Asia Arena on Wednesday, Nov. 29. F

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