The Games that Play Us: Hot Finish

Ray Parks was excellent as NU sent the UST
Growling Tigers reeling into the Final Four.
(image by Jerome Ascano/NPPA Images)

NU bulldogs over the UST Growling Tigers, 73-49

Sometimes, having nothing to lose makes a team play better, and that seemed to be the case as the NU Bulldogs, already out of Final Four contention, thrashed the UST Growling Tigers to close out Season 74.

The Tigers were supposed to be the stronger squad here. After all, they were the ones still in the thick of the fight for the UAAP crown, but they were the ones who played catch-up to the sharp-shooting Bulldogs, who converted 8 triples and made 15 of their 18 freebies in a blistering display to end their roller-coaster season on a high note.

Coach Pido Jarencio’s boys definitely missed the services of frontliners Melo Afuang and Karim Abdul. The former is still recovering from surgery while the latter was suspended for incurring two unsportsmanlike fouls in the Tigers’ previous match. Without those two, and with versatile big man Chris Camus benched for most of the game, UST had to make do with Paulo Pe, Kent Lao and Aljohn Ungria.

Emmanuel Mbe feasted on the depleted UST frontline
in their last game of Season 74.
(image by Arvin Lim/
Now those names don’t exactly incite fear into the hearts of men, and NU exploited it to the hilt. Emmanuel Mbe carved out 14 points, and grabbed 13 rebounds to dominate the interior, while the rest of the Bulldogs drove and bombed to their hearts’ content.

Ray Parks, who is looking to be the MVP frontrunner, was once again phenomenal. The Fil-Am scored 22 markers, had 8 boards, 6 dimes, 3 rejections and 1 steal to his name. the most memorable thing he did, however, was a behind-the-back-save-turned-basket in NU’s last (botched) possession. Apparently, the Harlem Globetrotters contacted him for a possible tryout.

Coach Jarencio, meanwhile, had to make do with what was left of his already-light arsenal. Jeric Teng and Jeric Fortuna hoisted 27 of UST’s 53 shots, making just 9, for a combined total of 27 points. The total number of assists between them? 2.

Could anyone blame them for being the requisite hogs, though? I mean, who else could they have counted on to score? Oh, right, there was Kevin Ferrer. He was 0-of-8 by the way. He had 3 boards, 1 assist and 3 turnovers in 30 minutes. Where was the DLSU-killer from last Thursday?

Kevin Ferrer was just a shell of his usual self in the
face of the relentless NU defense.
(image by Arvin Lim/
Clearly, this isn’t the best way to enter a Final Four confrontation against the twice-to-beat 3-time defending champions. I expect Abdul and perhaps Afuang to be back on Thursday as that could be UST’s final game before the long offseason. But even with a full complement of players, can the Tigers’ volatile play stand a chance against the methodical execution of the Eagles?

As for the Bulldogs, ending the season on a 2-game win streak will only serve to motivate them for next year. Coach Eric Altamirano has a coach’s dream in terms of the talent pool and resources at his fingertips. Just imagine if NU played the way they did against DLSU and UST from day 1 of Season 74, then they could’ve been the ones still alive. Instead Henry Sy’s dogs will settle for this hot finish, and will continue to look forward to a promising future.

NU 73 – Parks 22, Mbe 14, Javillonar 9, Labing-Isa 8, Singh 6, Alolino 5, Roño 5, Neypes 4, Villamor 0, Celiz 0, Magat 0
UST 49 – Teng 19, Fortuna 8, Lo 7, Camus 5, Vigil 3, Pe 2, Ungria 2, Aytona 2, Ferrer 1, Lao 0, Tan 0, Sheriff 0, Javier 0
QS: 23-12, 29-25, 47-35, 73-49

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