The Games That Play Us: Skin of Their Teeth

Coach Pido Jarencio probably breathed a sigh of relief
after his Tigers escaped the upset axe against Adamson.


Finally, Jeric Fortuna had a great game, and it came at a good time, too, since his 5-1 Growling Tigers were getting schooled by the 1-5 Soaring Falcons.

The former Junior Archer came up big in crunch time, hitting a triple with less than two minutes to go and then assisting on the go-ahead basket by Karim Abdul as UST reached 6 wins.

Before this game, Fortuna had been struggling. He averaged a little over 8 points and a little under 5 assists in UST’s first six games. Those aren’t bad numbers by UAAP standards, but they’re not exactly worthy of Fortuna’s fiery repute (he averaged upwards of 13 points per game last season).

In this game, he finished with 12 points, 7 assists, and 5 rebounds to help the Tigers avoid an embarrassing upset and take the top spot after the first round.

This win, however, wasn’t easy. The Falcons, behind Eric Camson’s best game of the season so far, led from late in the second quarter pretty much until Abdul’s eventual game-winner. Camson produced a sublime double-double line with 19 points and 10 rebounds, while frontcourt partner Rodney Brondial also did well with 15 points and 4 blocks.

In the end, though, Coach Pido Jarencio’s wards were rewarded for keeping up the pressure even if a number of things weren’t clicking. Unlike in their previous wins, the supporting cast of the España quintet wasn’t around to save the day. Tata Bautista, Kim Lo, Kevin Ferrer, and Louie Vigil combined for just 7-of-19 shooting from the field. Aljon Mariano did score 12 markers, but he laid a big fat egg in the final frame.

It was clear that Coach Pido wasn’t going to be able to pull any more rabbits from his top hat. It was clear that his top guns would have to tow them to the victory, and, fortunately, they did just that.

As the Falcons’ lead ballooned to nine points at 57-48 with about 6 minutes left, the Tiger fans probably felt a little queasy, a little uneasy, at the thought of their team getting upset by an Adamson quintet already playing without its most talented cager.

The old reliables, however, stepped in to finally wrest control. Abdul and Fortuna paired up for all but 2 of UST’s last 14 markers as the Black & Gold averted humiliation.

Despite this defeat, Coach Leo Austria can still be proud of how his boys played. They had all the excuses in the world to just go through the motions. They just lost to the UE Red Warriors. Alex Nuyles, despite appearing in uniform, wasn’t ever going to take the court. UST was the hottest team in the land. The Falcons could’ve just curled up and let the Tigers beat them to a pulp, only they didn’t. They fought tooth and nail despite falling behind early. They put a big scare in the hearts of UST. They served notice that though they’re a superstar short for the second round, they’re still a legitimate threat day in and day out.

The Tigers, meanwhile, are basking in the golden glory of first place. They’ve all but forgotten the stinging opening day loss to FEU, and will probably only dig it up as a form of added motivation when the two teams clash in round two. UST showed that, despite the injury of Jeric Teng and the absence of a messiah from their non-stars, they could still compete and, more importantly, make the winning plays down the stretch. Things actually seemed to take a 180-degree turn, as the Tigers weren’t the underdogs that they were in most of their past few games. Instead, they were the favorites. They were the bullies. Perhaps a little bit of complacency finally caught up with them, or maybe just fatigue from all the wringers they’ve been through. Whatever it is, they can take solace in the fact that they still came out of this gauntlet with a win, and that they are now unexpectedly on top of the UAAP mountain, albeit they got there just by the skin of their teeth.

Eric Camson (L) had easily his best game of
the season, but it still wasn't enough for a W.

Jeric Fortuna made the big plays down the stretch
to help UST gain the top spot in the UAAP.


UST 61 – Abdul 18, Mariano 12, Fortuna 12, Bautista 8, Vigil 6, Lo 3, Ferrer 2, Pe 0, Daquioag 0, Afuang 0
AdU 60 – Camson 19, Brondial 15, Etrone 10, Cabrera 10, Monteclaro 6, Rios 0, Petilos 0, Julkipli 0, Cruz 0, Cabigas 0, Abrigo 0
QS: 19-13, 26-33, 47-50, 61-60
Notable Performers:
Karim Abdul (UST) – 18pts, 12rebs, 3asts, 1stl
Jeric Fortuna (UST) – 12pts, 7asts, 5rebs, 1stl
Eric Camson (AdU) – 19pts, 10ebs, 3 treys, 2asts, 1stl, 1blk

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