Defending champion National University kept its “eight-peat” hopes alive with a pair of late defensive gems to beat University of Santo Tomas, 72-70, and force a rubber match in Game 2 of the University Athletic Association of the Philippines Season 86 women’s basketball finals yesterday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Pesky defenders Maymay Canuto and Stefanie Berberabe made consecutive stops against the Tigresses’ last two possessions to preserve the Bulldogs’ slim two-point lead that eventually tied the best-of-three series to one game apiece.
The first women’s finals series that went the full distance in 10 years will be decided on Wednesday at the same venue.
“We’re still alive,” NU head coach Aris Dimaunahan said in relief after his squad recovered from a 72-76 loss in the series opener last Wednesday.
“We always set a modest goal for our team every time, every play we’ll step on the court. Today’s mindset was to stay alive, we stayed in the present, we didn’t think of Game 1 and we don’t even think of Game 3, our main focus was Game 2 only, not even thinking about the result of this game,” Dimaunahan added.
“Our focus mainly was the bits and pieces that needed to be done to get the results that we want.”
Protecting a 72-70 lead, Canuto chased Kent Pastrana, who was already a couple of steps ahead after receiving an outlet pass off a defensive rebound by UST, to swipe the ball of her hands to get the possession back for NU with 17.4 seconds left in the fourth quarter.
Lady Bulldog Camille Clarin missed her two free throws with 11.5 seconds left giving the Tigresses one last shot to tie the game but Pastrana’s long two missed its mark with Berberabe tightly-contesting her shot.
Clarin led NU with 18 points and eight assists, Karl Pingol got 14 points and five rebounds while Princes Fabruada got 13 points.