Am I seeing the rebirth of the comeback cats? I do hope so and I am sure that the entire UST community is sharing the same sentiments as mine. After all, it has been a while since the UAAP witnessed the comeback cats take the center stage and keep their audience in awe. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not into the entire plot of trailing for most part of the game then mounting a comeback just before the final buzzer rings but what I like most about the comeback cats are their intensity, hustle, and willingness to win no matter what the circumstances may be.

Behind by double digits at the end of the first half, 21-32, the UST Growling Tigers once again owned the third period by limiting the FEU Tamaraws to only 12 points while pouring in the highest quarter points and FG% of the game – 22 points and 53.8%, respectively. This 10-point swing boosted the confidence of the Tigers and more importantly, shifted the momentum to their side. Only trailing by a point at the start of the fourth canto, UST managed to completely turn things around and posted a seven-point lead, 56-49, with 3:50 remaining in regulation.

The Tamaraws then sparked a 9-0 run to regain the lead, 56-58 with under 2 minutes to play in the fourth. The remainder of regulation had then become a duel between Aljon Mariano and Terrence Romeo scoring-wise. They exchanged baskets until Romeo secured a three-point margin for the Tams by taking care of two pressure-packed free throws with 7.4 seconds left.  After a UST timeout, Mariano quickly aligned and scored a three pointer to tie the game at 62. With one timeout left and still 4.9 seconds remaining, FEU had the chance to win the game in the next possession, but they failed to do so and what’s worst was they weren’t able to put up a shot. Hence, extending the game to overtime.

In the overtime period, Abdul and Ferrer exchanged baskets with RR Garcia, Gryann Mendoza, and Mark Belo to keep the game tied at 67 with 2:22 left. Mendoza then broke the tie by firing a three-point shot that was unanswered until the birthday boy, Clark Bautista, scored his own version of the three-point shot to tie game at 70 with 10 seconds left. Off to another timeout, Romeo missed the well-contested three-point shot. The putback jumpshot of Michael Tolomia was half a second late yielding another five-minute extension.

Come the second overtime period, Abdul took charge on both ends of the court. He gave the Tigers a three point separation, 79-76 with 35 seconds left courtesy of an and-one play that he gladly completed. After the quick two conversion of Tolomia, Bautista lost the ball to give the Tamaraws an opportunity to snatch a win. Belo then shot a potential game-winning three-pointer but Abdul chased him down and blocked the shot. Ferrer then secured the ball and was fouled. After missing the first FT he purposely missed the second FT to let the time expire with them bagging the win.

Review: Keys of the Game

Abdul being Abdul

I am not really sure how healthy Abdul is. There were some anxious moments late in the game wherein he was floored, took some time to get up and was hobbling. Regardless, he successfully provided the strength and scoring that the Tigers badly needed. Another double-double performance for him, 24 points and 12 rebounds. Definitely not a sub-par performance, we couldn’t ask for more.

Winning and one play of Karim Abdul in second overtime (Photo Credit: Monica Pantaleon, TomCat)

Winning and-1 play of Karim Abdul in second overtime. (Photo Credit: Monica Pantaleon, Tomasinoweb.org)

Rainbow Country Conversions

I must admit, FEU was not in their usual deadly three-point shooting form. I don’t know if it was intentional for the Tigers to bait the Tamaraws to shoot as much three-point shots as they could by employing two-three zone for most part of the end game, but hey it worked! Tams attempted 40 3pt shots, this is way beyond the leagues norm of 3pt attempts – 21.6, and even 10 shots more than their own average attempts. In those 40 attempts only seven shots went in and gave the Tamaraws a very low 3PT% at 17.5%. With a little bit of help from lady luck, the Tigers were able to check this key point.

Abdul about to block Romeo's shot. (Photo Credit: Jun Mendoza, Phil Star)

Abdul about to block Romeo’s shot. (Photo Credit: Jun Mendoza, Phil Star)

Limit those Fastbreaks

This is something that I think allowed the Tigers to keep in step with the Tams. The rest of the UST five were very much aware of the running ability of FEU and they were able to avoid fast break attempts. In fact, the lone period that the Tams were able to run and score a fast break attempt was in the fourth period wherein they scored four points and that was it. This is a far cry from their 12 fast break points in their first outing. A bonus for the Tigers, Lo was able to leak out a number of times that provided UST the much-needed boost in fast break points, giving them +5 points in this department.

Final Thoughts

If the Tigers can sustain this kind of energy and resilience for the next three games, final four will not be that far from their reach. A three-game win sweep will definitely mean a top four spot, a two-game win will give them a shot but a single win would mean an early vacation. Tigers’ fate is still in their hands. It is up to them how they are going to react. Let’s all just hope that the injury woes are now over and done.