UP MBT clinches twice-to-beat edge, WBT exits Final Four race after UST clash

The University of the Philippines (UP) Fighting Maroons will take separate paths entering the postseason after tallying an assertive win in the men’s basketball tournament and a disheartening loss on the women’s side during their second-round matchup against the University of Santo Tomas (UST) Growling Tigers last Nov. 23.

Comeback is real

The UP Men’s Basketball Team sealed a twice-to-beat advantage in the Final Four after walloping the UST Growling Tigers, 78-60, at the Mall of Asia Arena.

The earlier win of the DLSU Green Archers over the NU Bulldogs virtually handed the defending champions the semis bonus. 

It was the Maroons’ fourth-quarter charge that proved to be pivotal to the victory, which puts the team back on track after absorbing a stinging loss to the Archers last Sunday.

A hot-handed Carl Tamayo churned out eight of UP’s first ten points before JD Cagulangan and Henry Galinato Jr. joined the scoreboard to bury UST early on, 13-5. 

Rafael Pangilinan and Nic Cabanero incited the yellow shirts’ payback with a side trey and back-to-back baskets to help snatch the lead at 16-15. 

After several messy plays from both ends, Malick Diouf animated all spirits with an open-wide slam off a Brix Ramos pass to cap off a 7-0 blitz in the second frame. 

UP looked poised to dominate UST as they ballooned the lead to 12 at 34-22. However, the Tigers regrouped and staged another scoring run to trim UP’s lead to three, courtesy of a Cabanero drive.

“As you saw, [UST] came up sharp during the first half and we’re just grateful na naka-bounce back kami no’ng second half and were able to get this win,” UP MBT assistant head coach Christian Luanzon said. 

JD Cagulangan dictates a play for the Fighting Maroons during their Nov. 23 matchup against the Growling Tigers. Photo by Glecelyn Simba

Case in point, State U began pulling away in the second half they outscored the Tigers from the field for a 59-49 tally. 

Their biggest lead of the game came midway into the final salvo at 51-74 after Cyril Gonzales’ layup off a fake.

UST tried to catch up as Echo Laure fired a jumper and Cabanero drained a corner three in the final seconds, but UP’s 18-point cushion proved to be impenetrable. 

Carl Tamayo top-scored for the Maroons with 19 points and nine rebounds. Gonzales added 14 markers, while Diouf listed another terrific outing with 10 points, 14 rebounds and six steals. 

Cabanero had 14 points for the Tigers, who sank to 1-11 in the standings.

The UP MBT looks to formally clinch the top seed as they face the Ateneo Blue Eagles in the final game of the elimination round on Nov. 26 at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.

Falling short

On the flip side, the UP Women’s Basketball Team (UP WBT) crashed out of Final Four contention after suffering an 85-52 blowout against the UST Growling Tigresses at the UST Quadricentennial Pavilion. 

This marks the 10th straight full-calendar season that the Lady Maroons will miss the semifinals, previously qualifying during Season 71 in 2008.

A turnover-prone UP trailed throughout the first half as UST, led by the troika of Rocel Dionisio, Tacky Tacatac and Eka Soriano, pounced on their offensive woes for a 49-25 tally.

The Tigresses continued to be relentless in the third quarter, holding a 31-point lead over the Maroons at one point before Kaye Pesquera nailed back-to-back triples to help stop the bleeding.

Running out of answers to UST’s impressive offense, State U had to dig deep into its bench in the closing salvo, with Jona Lebico and Stiffany Larrosa scoring four straight points in the final stretch of the match. 

Their mini-run was UP’s last attempt at the Final Four this season as UST officially booted them out of the race with a 31-point rout. 

Pesquera paced the loss with 12 points, while Bariquit and Acrissa Maw chimed in 11 markers apiece. 

Tacatac played spectacularly once more, producing 24 big points for the Tigresses who now rise to a 10-3 slate.

The UP WBT will try to close out their campaign with a win against the Final Four-bound Ateneo Lady Eagles on Saturday. 

UP MBT QUARTER SCORES: 15-16, 37-34, 59-49, 78-60

UP WBT QUARTER SCORES: 13-22, 25-49, 39-67, 52-85