CRUCIAL STOPS and successive triples that came at the right time allowed the UST Growling Tigresses to oust the erstwhile reigning NU Lady Bulldogs, 71-69, in a dramatic come-from-behind victory that gave them their first crown in 17 years.
Late-game heroics by Tigresses Kent Pastrana and Nikki Villasin and a crucial mistake by the Lady Bulldogs during the dying seconds of the game led to a reversal of fortune that ended NU’s dynasty and gave UST its 12th title in the women’s division.
The Tigresses last won the championship in 2006, also the year when their league-worst male counterparts last brought home the crown to España.
“NU gave us a lot of chances to catch up. We made good stops in the last one minute. The heart of my players did not give up, even though they were down by 15 points,” UST head coach Haydee Ong said in a post-game press conference at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
She attributed the win to “crucial” stops, Tantoy Ferrer’s three-pointers, Pastrana’s game-tying lay-up and Nikki Villasin’s game-closing fastbreak layup.
The Tigresses dominated in the opening quarter, unleashing a scoring barrage to gain an early seven-point lead, 15-8.
Lady Bulldogs Kristine Cayabyab’s back-to-back three-pointers and Princess Fabruada’s shots allowed them to steal the lead 16-15.
But Tigress center Rocel Dionisio and co-captain Tacky Tacatac roared back with two successive layups to tie the game, 19-all.
The Bulldogs pulled off a 12-0 run in the second quarter, courtesy of Cayabyab and Stefanie Berberabe’s back-to-back layup points, allowing them to take the lead, 44-32.
The erstwhile champions maintained a 14-point lead by the end of the third salvo due to the collaborative efforts of Angelica Surada, Berberabe, and Cayabyab, 61-47.
Tigress forward Ferrer’s three consecutive field goals in the fourth quarter ignited her squad’s comeback, narrowing the lead to two, 67-65.
Pastrana converted a fastbreak layup to bring the game to a deadlock, 69-all.
Two missed field goals that would have given them the lead and a fastbreak lay-up by Tigress Villasin sealed the fate of the Lady Bulldogs, whose seven-year reign ended with a 71-69 loss.
“Coach reminded us that the game is not yet over. We just have to run our play. We trusted our coaches. If not for them, we wouldn’t have won,” Ferrer said in an interview with The Flame.
Ferrer, a member of this season’s mythical five, led UST with 19 points, 14 rebounds and two assists. She bagged the Finals Most Valuable Award. Pastrana and Villasin contributed 16 and 12 markers, respectively.
Kristine Cayabyab steered NU’s offense with 18 markers, while Fabruada and Karl Pingol tallied 13 and 11. F – M.N.Z. Serrano with reports from Mari Ymanuel Roxas