by John Edison Ubaldo
Photos by Mark Conrad Salvador
The University of the Philippines squandered a 14-point lead early in the pay-off period but hung on tough to survive an end game scare and eke out a pulsating 51-49 win over the University of Santo Tomas in the first round of UAAP Season 76 Thursday at the Blue Eagle Gym.
The Lady Maroons was well ahead, 40-16, entering the final period before UST rallied on Guard Marian Mejia’s hot hands who almost turned the game around with a buzzer-beater trey but her shot bounced off the rim.
It was the first win in the season for the Lady Maroons who fell to the National University, 60-51, and Adamson University, 72-53. The win improved their win-loss card to 1-2 after three outings.
Forward Antonia Wong once again provided deep off the bench with her third straight double-double, topscoring UP with 15 points to go with 13 rebounds, seven coming from the offensive boards, two steals, and one blocked shot.
Guard Karen Salapong supplemented with 10 points and eight rebounds while spitfire guard Bea Daez had an all-around nine points, eight rebounds, four dimes and three steals outing.
After a close opening quarter, UP surged ahead in the second quarter holding the Tigresses to a seven-point production while unloading 17 points. They sustained momentum in the third canto outscoring UST by six for the 14-point cushion going into the final 12 minutes.
For the second straight game, the Lady Maroons piled their turnovers, committing 33 turnovers overall, most of them during the crucial moments of the final two quarters when UST was slowly closing the gap.
Going for naught was Mejia’s monster performance dropping 15 points while grabbing five boards, all on offensive rebounds, dishing out two assists and a whopping seven steals. She was the lone double digit scorer for UST.
UP Lady Maroons will next face Season 76 runner-up De La Salle University on Sunday, 12 noon at the San Juan Arena.