Renzo Subido knocked down a cold-blooded 3-pointer with 23.6 seconds left to steer the UST Growling Tigers to the UAAP Season 82 men's basketball finals, knocking out the twice-to-beat UP Fighting Maroons, 68-65, Wednesday at the Mall of Asia Arena.
The Tigers overcame a late surge from the Fighting Maroons to emerge victorious and return to the championship stage for the first time in four years.
UST set up a best-of-three finals battle against the undefeated Ateneo Blue Eagles after surviving three consecutive do-or-die matches in the stepladder semifinals.
Subido went 4-for-9 from downtown to finish with 14 points on top of four rebounds and two assists. The veteran guard sparked the Tigers' 7-0 surge in the opening minutes and finished off with the biggest shot that catapulted his team back into the UAAP's grandest stage.
Soulemane Chabi Yo, the league's Most Valuable Player, finished with another explosive performance, churning out a double-double of 22 points and 16 rebounds. Mark Nonoy and and Rhenz Abando combined for 23 points.
After being down by as many as 12 points, UP got its first taste of the lead midway through the fourth quarter, thanks to back-to-back baskets from Jun Manzo and Juan Gomez de Liaño.
As the momentum shifted to the Fighting Maroons' side, Kobe Paras unleashed a two-handed dunk to give his team a 65-61 lead in the last two minutes. Rhenz Abando quickly responded with a layup to keep it close.
The two teams struggled to make a field goal in the next few possessions until Subido nailed the go-ahead triple with 23.6 seconds left on the clock.
UP still had a chance to gain back the lead but Javi Gomez de Liaño missed his short stab. Bright Akhuetie tried to clean it up but the ball went out of bounds instead.
Chabi Yo made it a 3-point ballgame with a pair of free throws. With only 4.4 seconds to work with, James Spencer launched a long shot that missed the mark. Subido ensured the win by grabbing the rebound.
"It was really tough for us because of their adjustments," said UST head coach Aldin Ayo. "We tried to counter and we were able to get our shots but they were not falling. I kept on telling the boys to keep on taking those shots because those are our shots. Towards the end, it was anybody's ball game."
Bright Akhuetie led the charge for the Fighting Maroons with 16 points and 17 rebounds. Jun Manzo contributed 12 points before fouling out in the last two and a half minutes. Ricci Rivero added 12 points and eight rebounds in the loss.
UST 68 -- Chabi Yo 22, Subido 14, Nonoy 12, Abando 11, Ando 3, Cansino 2, Concepcion 2, Paraiso 2, Bataller 0, Huang 0.
UP 65 -- Akhuetie 16, Manzo 12, Rivero 12, Ju. Gomez de Liano 8, Paras 8, Spencer 3, Ja. Gomez de Liano 2, Prado 2, Webb 2, Murrell 0, Tungcab 0.
Quarters: 18-6, 29-28, 49-44, 68-65.
- UST built a 27-16 advantage in perimeter points but only hit seven 3s on an 18 percent clip. Abando and Nonoy only combined for three 3-pointers out of a combined 18 attempts. Sherwin Concepcion and Brent Paraiso also went cold from deep, missing all their long shots.
- The Fighting Maroons trailed all throughout Game 1 and the first three quarters of Game 2. They managed to secure the lead in the last five minutes before the Tigers countered with an 11-6 closing run.
- The Tigers last reached the finals in Season 78 during the time of Kevin Ferrer and Ed Daquioag. They lost to the Mac Belo-led FEU Tamaraws in three games.
Finals Game 1 - UST vs Ateneo on November 16 (Saturday) at Smart Araneta Coliseum