Soulemane Chabi Yo showcased his explosive MVP form as he steered the UST Growling Tigers past the FEU Tamaraws, 81-71, in the do-or-die stepladder semifinals of the UAAP Season 82 men's basketball tournament Wednesday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
The Tigers overcame a second-half surge from the Tamaraws to advance to the next phase of the semis against the UP Fighting Maroons, who hold a twice-to-beat advantage.
Chabi Yo proved that he deserves to be hailed as the league's best player, keeping UST's bid alive by unleashing 25 points, 10 rebounds, and three assists.
Brent Paraiso heated up from beyond the arc, shooting five of his nine attempts to finish with 18 points. Renzo Subido delivered in the clutch and ended up with 14 points.
"Nothing comes easy. That has always been our season," Tigers coach Aldin Ayo said. "We thought this game would be easy but we knew that FEU won't give it to us just like that. They are well-coached, they have the players, it just so happened that the ball went our way today and our shots fell."
UST carried as high as a 26-point lead by halftime but Ken Tuffin sparked FEU's huge run in the third quarter that cut the deficit down to 10. Rhenz Abando and Subido stopped the bleeding for UST with back-to-back triples, extending the lead to 14 entering the fourth.
The Tamaraws opened the final period with a 9-0 run to inch within five, 70-65, with 6:39 left. They ran out of steam, however, and suffered a five-minute scoring drought while Subido and Chabi Yo strung together eight points on the other end.
Tuffin and Xyrus Torres hit two more 3s to make it 78-71 in the last 38 seconds but the Tigers did enough in the endgame to hold on to the victory.
"We just tried to play good defense and then execute the plays and follow the system of the coach," said Chabi Yo. "We wanted to play our A-game today so that we'll win and that's what we did. We started strong and we tried to finish strong. We had mistakes we had to overcome. Next game we'll try to do our best more."
Tuffin topped for FEU with 20 points including five 3-point shots, while L-Jay Gonzales added 11 points and nine assists in the loss.
UST 81 -- Chabi Yo 25, Paraiso 18, Subido 14, Abando 9, Nonoy 6, Huang 4, Bataller 3, Cansino 2, Ando 0, Concepcion 0, Cuajao 0.
FEU 71 -- Tuffin 20, Gonzales 11, Cani 10, Ebona 9, Comboy 8, Torres 8, Tchuente 5, Alforque 0, Bayquin 0, Bienes 0, Stockton 0.
Quarters: 26-16, 54-28, 70-56, 81-71.
-- The Tigers came out firing in the first half, scoring a whopping 54 points against the Tamaraws' defense. Chabi Yo shot a perfect 7-for-7 from the field to score 19 points in that stretch.
-- Barkley Eboña was ejected with 1:19 left in the first half after getting his second unsportsmanlike foul for elbowing Chabi Yo in the face. He was leading FEU with nine points and seven rebounds before he left the court in what turned out to be his final UAAP game.
-- The Tamaraws bowed out of the semis for the fourth straight year. The last time that they reached the finals was Season 78 when they won the title at the expense of the Tigers.
UST vs UP on November 10 (Sunday) at Smart Araneta Coliseum