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Retooled Tigers thump Tams for 3rd straight win

Riding on the prowess of veterans Zach Huang and Marvin Lee, University of Sto. Tomas (UST) scored an upset anew over Far Eastern University (FEU), 78-70, stretching its win streak to three in Season 81 University Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP) men’s basketball on Sunday at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City.

Huang and skipper Lee took charge in the fourth quarter en route to an improved 4-4 record for the Growling Tigers.

The win, a repeat of its 76-74 thrasshing of FEU, boosted UST’s Final Four bid and tightened its grip of the fifth spot entering the second round.

“We played well again. We executed our game plan. The game of the players came out. We really prepared for this,” said UST head coach Aldin Ayo, who celebrated his 41st birthday on Sunday.

“But there’s still a long way to go. We’re not going to be contented with these wins. We’re going to continue working hard and competing,” added the soft-spoken coach. The Tigers have already matched their win record in the past two seasons.

Huang finished with a career-high 20 points on top of six rebounds, an assist and a steal while Lee fired a season-best 17 markers to go with five dimes and two steals. The two were responsible for 17 of the Tigers’ 29 points in the payoff period.

Huang dedicated the win as a birthday gift to Ayo.

“We’re extra motivated because it’s coach Aldin’s birthday. But apart from that, last season, we never won to FEU. So, this is a statement,” said the fourth-year bruiser.

Renzo Subido chipped in 14 points, two rebounds and two assists while rookie center Germy Mahinay came through with a career-best 10 markers, pouring five of those within the last 5:22 of the game.

The Tigers roared to a strong start, seizing a 29-19 lead anchored on a 13-2 run bridging the opening quarters.

But the Tamaraws rammed with an 11-2 surge capped by Alec Stockton’s free throws to snatch the lead, 48-46, late in the third period.

Knotted in a 49-49 tie at the start of the final frame, Lee hit back-to-back three’s while Huang sank a jumper to trigger a 16-5 blast that handed UST its biggest buffer, 65-54, with 3:57 left.

FEU threatened to close in, 63-70, on Arvin Tolentino’s eight-point burst with 1:23 remaining.

Huang foiled the Tamaraws’ comeback bid with his foul shot conversions in the closing moments of the game.

Richard Escoto led FEU with 12 points and five boards while Tolentino had a double-double of 11 markers and 11 rebounds.

Olsen Racela’s Tamaraws saw their three-game streak end as they fell to No. 2 with a 5-3 slate.

Tolentino is set to serve a one-game suspension again after committing a disqualifying foul on Huang in the dying seconds of the game. Tolentino missed FEU’s 63-60 win over defending champion Ateneo De Manila University by committing the same infraction.

Meanwhile, University of the Philippines’ Bright Akhuetie is leading the Most Valuable Player race after the first round.

Akhuetie garnered 77 statistical points built on averages of 15.7 points, 15.7 rebounds, 3.6 assists, .86 steal and .71 block.

Trailing behind the 6-foot-7 Nigerian center were University of the East’s Alvin Pasaol (71.57 SPs), Ateneo De Manila University’s Ivorian big man Angelo Kouame (68.43 SPs), De La Salle University’s Justine Baltazar (64.57 SPs) and Fighting Maroon Juan Gomez De Liaño (60.57 SPs).


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