National University (NU) was not willing to relinquish its seven-year dynasty, clamping the wheels of star Tigress Kent Pastrana in the endgame as the Lady Bulldogs level the UAAP women’s basketball finals versus the University of Santo Tomas (UST), 72-70, Sunday at the Araneta Coliseum.
With Pastrana streaking toward an open layup to tie the game, defensive guard Maimai Canuto managed to strip the ball from the Mythical Five member and force a crucial turnover with 17 seconds left.
The Tigresses had another chance at tying or winning the game as star Bulldog Camille Clarin muffed both her free throws, but another defensive guard in Stefanie Berberabe forced a missed step-back three from Pastrana to avert a last second championship by UST.
“Hats off to our ladies for not giving up. Kasi parang lamang na si Pastrana ng three steps sa fastbreak pero hinabol pa rin ni Maimai Canuto,” commented NU head coach Aris Dimaunahan.
“It could have been an easy lay-up for Kent, but again I have to give credit Maimai for really having the heart and probably nakita niya si Berberabe for doing that all season so probably, na-inspire siya sa kanya,” Dimaunahan continued, who likewise credited Berberabe for being “in the face” of Pastrana on the latter’s last shot.
It seemed to be a sweep for the Tigresses to start the game, surging to an early 22-13 lead marked by Racel Dionisio’s paint dominance.
The Lady Bulldogs, though, clawed back in the second quarter with outside shots from Clarin and driving layups from substitute center Karl Pingol to force a see-saw battle.
NU ultimately drifted away by building a six-point lead to start the fourth quarter, 63-57, off a 4-0 blitz by Gilas women standouts Clarin and Angelica Sudara.
Despite efforts by Pastrana and fellow Mythical Five member Tantoy Ferrer, the Lady Bulldogs held on to that precarious lead throughout the payoff period.
“[To] give all your heart and execute up to the last minute, that’s what we’ve been missing in Game One, but come Game Two, you could see everyone lay it on the line as if it is the last game. I couldn’t be prouder for teammates like that,” said Clarin, who topscored with 18 points while dishing eight assists.
Surada, meanwhile, added eight points, 10 boards, and three blocks.
Pastrana, Ferrer, and Rocel Dionisio scored 15 points each for the Tigresses.
The two will meet for the final time in Game Three on Wednesday, 12 noon, at the Araneta Coliseum, with NU attempting to eclipse the University of the East men’s team record for the longest championship streak in UAAP collegiate basketball while the Tigresses will bid for a record 12th crown to be the winningest women’s basketball team in league history.