By Kristel Satumbaga
University of Santo Tomas returned to the UAAP women’s basketball finals for the first time in 13 years after besting Far Eastern University 76-65 on Saturday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
The Tigresses kept their tempo despite losing their double-digit lead to arrange a best-of-three championship affair with unbeaten National University Lady Bulldogs starting Wednesday at the Mall of Asia Arena.
NU boasts of a 94-game winning streak.
Season Most Valuable Player Grace Irebu paced with 28 points and 14 rebounds for UST while Lon Rivera chipped in 13 points and five boards.
“We’ve waited for three years for this to happen,” said UST mentor Haydee Ong of her coaching stint. “Yung programs, walang shortcut yan eh. You have to work for it.”
The last time UST made it to the finals was in 2006 under coach Peque Tan, where the Tigresses also clinched the crown at the expense of the FEU Lady Tamaraws.
“It has been a long road for us. We really wanted this since we came in. There were a lot of people who worked hard for it and we are thankful that we’re here,” said UST assistant coach Arsenio Dysangco.
The road to finals didn’t come easy for the Tigresses, who enjoyed a twice-to-beat incentive with their No. 2 seeding only to lose to the Lady Tamaraws 48-46 three days ago.
But UST came back rejuvenated and overpowered FEU on all fronts, shooting 25-of-58 from the field and hauling 45 boards.
FEU failed to make a return trip to the finals despite Val Mamaril and Choy Bahuyan finishing with combined 35 points.
UST 76 — Irebu 28, Rivera 13, Soriano 11, Portillo 8, Tacatac 6, Ferrer 4, Panti 4, Callangan 2, Gandalla 0, Gonzales 0, Javier 0.
FEU 65 — Mamaril 23, Bahuyan 12, Jumuad 11, Castro 9, Quiapo 6, Antiola 2, Vidal 2, Abat 0, Adriano 0, Bastatas 0, Delos Santos 0, Pacia 0.
Quarters: 14-11, 43-21, 59-45, 76-65.
Tags: Arsenio Dysangco, Choy Bahuyan, FEU Lady Tamaraws, Grace Irebu, Haydee Ong, Lady Tamaraws, Tigresses, UAAP, UAAP S82 women's basketball, UAAP Season 82 women's basketball, UST Tigresses, Val Mamaril