THE UST Growling Tigers suffered their third finals defeat in four years after falling short in capturing the title once more, this time against the FEU Tamaraws, 62-67, in Game 3 of the UAAP Season 78 men’s basketball finals at the Mall of Asia Arena yesterday.
FEU led by as much as 10 in the third quarter, 41-51, before the Tigers unleashed a 16-0 charge spearheaded by Ed Daquioag and Marvin Lee to hold a six-point advantage, 57-51, with five minutes remaining in the fourth.
The Tamaraws then stormed back after a three-pointer from Roger Pogoy and a layup in transition from Mike Tolomia capped off a 12-3 FEU run to give them the lead, 63-60.
UST’s hopes were still alive after Tolomia split his free throws, 64-62. However, Karim Abdul committed a turnover off an inbounds pass with 21 seconds remaining in the game.
Mac Belo then sank a free throw and blocked Daquioag’s layup attempt on the other end. Russell Escoto sealed the game for the Tamaraws by making both of his foul shots.
FEU bagged their 20th men’s basketball championship, the most in UAAP history and their first since 2005.
“Sobrang sakit talaga. Third time na namin ‘to sa finals eh,” UST head coach Bong dela Cruz said after the game.
Daquioag topped the Tigers in scoring with 21 points, while Abdul added 12. Lee also chipped in nine.
Kevin Ferrer, who led a fierce UST comeback in Game 2 with 29 points, was held to only six points on seven attempts from the field.
Mark Belo posted 23 points and eight rebounds and was named as the Finals MVP. Pogoy and Tolomia each added 14 and 13 points, respectively.
The Tigers shot better from the field (37.5 percent) compared to the Tamaraws (33.3 percent) and received the bulk of their points from their starters (45 points).
FEU, however, fared better in bench points (44) and rebounding (45 boards against UST’s 37).
Abdul, Daquioag, and Ferrer have all played their final years in the UAAP.
FEU  - Belo 23, Pogoy 14, Tolomia 13, Tamsi 6, Ru. Escoto 5, Inigo 3, Jose 2, Orizu 1, Dennison 0, Arong 0, Ri. Escoto 0, Trinidad 0.
UST  - Daquioag 21, Abdul 12, Lee 9, Ferrer 6, Vigil 6, Lao 6, Bonleon 2, Sheriff 0, Faundo 0, Huang 0.