By Marisse Gabrielle Panaligan
It has been another heart-breaking loss for the Fighting Maroons.
University of Santo Tomas needed a five-minute overtime to shatter a surprisingly aggressive UP Fighting Maroons, 87-81, in the first round of the UAAP Men’s Basketball Tournament yesterday at the Araneta Coliseum.
The Growling Tigers had redeemed themselves after bowing to the Ateneo Blue Eagles Sunday, securing a 2-1 card and placing sixth in the team standings.
“Tatlong word lang naman ‘yan: pride, puso, palaban. Pagka meron tayo noon, maraming magagandang mangayayari sa atin,” said UST Coach Pido Jarencio.
Jeric Fortuna led the Tigers’ charge with his game-high 29 points, uncorking eight long-range shots with an 80% success rate. He also wound up with six assists, five steals, and two assists.
Forward Aljon Mariano and guard Jeric Teng finished with 18 and 13 markers respectively, also firing from behind the three-point arc with five baskets combined.
The Maroons put up a fight despite the absence of Coach Aboy Castro, showing remarkably big improvement in their plays. Martin Reyes uncorked four three-pointers of his 19 points while Michael Silungan sank three of his own to finish with a 16 point output.
“We should’ve won this game for him [Coach Aboy]. I really wish we did,” said Silungan, who was recruited by Castro.
The Tigers enjoyed a seven point-lead by the end of the first half, but the Maroons began their offensive shootout during the second, closing the lead to only a point, 57-56.
UP continued their assault until the early fourth, but UST scored a very crucial basket. Acting UP Coach Boyet Fernandez claims it was clearly a 24-second violation, but the officials still counted the ball in.
The Maroons were ahead by one point with seven seconds on the clock, but Silungan fouled with three seconds to go and the game was sent to overtime for the first time in the season after a 69-69 tie at the fourth quarter’s end.
During the extra minutes, the Tigers flashed the form they showed in the mid-game, highlighting once again their accuracy in long-range shooting.
“We just have to get our first win. It might trigger a run,” said UP Coach Jerry Codiñera.
The Maroons started strongly, with Magi Sison converting points from Woody Co’s assists, scoring the inside plays. They also had tighter defense and better rebounds, giving UP the first quarter, 15-12. This is the first time in three games that the Maroons finished ahead in a quarter.
“Even though we lost the first three games, we have gotten better every single game,” said Silungan in an interview with TNP after the game.
The UP Fighting Maroons will face the FEU Tamaraws on Sunday at the PhilSports Arena.