For almost five years, University of Santo Tomas attempted 12 times to defeat Ateneo only to end up failing.
But the 13th try proved to be lucky for the Growling Tigers as they rallied from a 19-point deficit for a shock 71-70 victory over the defending champion Eagles in yesterday's thrilling 75th UAAP basketball action at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.
UST appeared headed for another miserable loss early on when several turnovers and bungled attempts enabled Ateneo to literally make it a track meet with its transition plays.
Ateneo built a 39-20 lead with minutes left before halftime but the Tigers went on a blistering comeback behind small forward Aljon Mariano.
Mariano, the third-year commerce student who missed last season with a fractured right ankle, gave the Espana-based squad a new lease on life when he erupted for 13 of his 21 points in the third period to take a 58-54 lead that stunned the Ateneo gallery.
Then, Jeric Teng and Karim Abdul joined hands in the fourth quarter as UST weathered a late rally by the Eagles for seven points down for the first victory against its victim since an 87-74 win on Aug. 4, 2007 at the Cuneta Astrodome.
"Nakatsamba rin sa wakas," echoed UST coach Pido Jarencio.
"Tingin ko law of averages din.Hindi naman pwede na lagi tayong umiiyak at naghihinagpis, syempre darating din ang panahon na ang araw ay liliwanag sa amin."
It was a morale-booster for the Tigers, who lost a big lead in absorbing a 73-72 loss to Far Eastern on Saturday.
"Gusto namin talagang matapos yung drought at masarap talunin ang Ateneo kasi malakas sila," said Mariano, who has been in top form since the preseason.
"He did a very good job. Yeah, he played well today," said Ateneo coach Norman Black, who after Sunday's 73-57 win over Adamson singled out Mariano as one of the players that needs to be stopped.
In the other game, rookie Jeron Teng hit a troika of three-point plays as La Salle pulled away in the last five minutes for a 67-59 win over University of the East and take the early lead with a 2-0 win-loss slate.
Teng had 16 points and five rebounds as the Green Archers seized the early lead with a perfect 2-0 slate. It's the school's best start since its last title in 2007.