Tigers slip past Falcons, clinch top spot

Coming through with clutch plays in the stretch, University of Santo Tomas turned back upset-conscious Adamson Sunday with a come-from-behind 61-60 victory to gain the top spot at the end of the first round of the UAAP Season 75 men’s basketball action at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.

The Growling Tigers clamped down on the Falcons in the last 2:30 minutes while getting the job done offensively, capped by Cameroon import Karim Abdul’s go-ahead bucket with 51.1 seconds left that proved enough to stretch UST’s winning run to five and sixth overall against a lone defeat.

UST kept in step with four-time defending champion Ateneo at the top of the field with identical 6-1 records but the Espana-based squad formally clinched the top spot after the first round, owing to its 71-70 victory over the Katipunan-based team last July 19.

The Falcons, meanwhile, dropped to 1-6.

“Siguro dahil yun sa attitude na 'not giving up.' Hanggang may oras, lalaban kami,” stated UST coach Pido Jarencio, who drew 18 points and 12 boards from his prized African import with Fortuna and Aljon Mariano adding 12 apiece.

A trey by Allen Etrone padded the Falcons’ lead to 60-54 but that proved to be their last bucket as the Tigers came up with sterling plays on both ends.

Kevin Ferrer ignited the Tigers’ late-game fightback with a successful follow-up off a miss by Tata Bautista before Jeric Fortuna’s triple pulled them to within 59-60. As Adamson suddenly cooled off, the 6-foot-6 Abdul bulldozed his way for the eventual game-winning basket with just 51.1 seconds left.

The Falcons, who unleashed a 20-4 run in the second canto to gain a 33-26 lead at the break, completely stumbled, with Eric Camson’s last-gasp attempt failing to hit the rim as time expired.

“Lahat ng bagay pinaghihirapan. Pag hindi pinaghirapan, madaling mawala yan. Tumibay na rin siguro dahil madaming games na naghabol tayo. May buenas pa. Kahit konti naka-chamba pa tayo,” Jarencio added.

With ace wingman Alex Nuyles watching from the bench, Camson took up the cudgels for Adamson with 19 points and 12 rebounds while Rodney Brondial collected 15 markers.

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