AFTER a long, long wait, University of Santo Tomas has finally savored the sweet taste of victory in basketball.

The Growling Tigresses delivered the University Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP) title on Wednesday at the expense of seven-time defending champion National University.

"Really lost for words. Really happy for the girls. Sila may gawa nito. We were down big, pero sabi ko, 'Don't give up, stick together, unti-untiin natin.' That spelled the difference, yung puso ng mga players, yung 'di bumigay," said head coach Haydee Ong.

UST overcame a 14-point deficit after three quarters, rallying from a 58-67 disadvantage with four minutes to go.

Tantoy Ferrer played a pivotal role in the 13-2 finishing run, securing the championship and giving the UST community a reason to celebrate in basketball after years of anticipation.

"This will go down in history for UST, especially 'cause the last time we had a championship was in 2006. The community is superb. They're not just supporting men's basketball na lang, now they know women's basketball is worth watching," said Ong, a former champion herself as a player for the Black and Gold.

Ferrer, who poured 19 points against NU, was probably starting to learn how to walk when UST last won the men’s and women’s titles in 2006.

Jojo Duncil and Jervy Cruz sparked the Tigers to victory against the Ateneo Blue Eagles whom they defeated in three games in the finals. Duncil went on to become the Finals Most Valuable Player.

Coached then by Pido Jarencio, the Tigers clinched their 18th collegiate crown, counting the nine they won when they were still competing in the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA).

In the 2006 women’s finals, Marichu Bacaro and Rem Buenacosa joined hands to repulse Far Eastern University.

After the sweep came a 17-year drought.

With a history of 17 combined Final Four appearances in the men's and women's tournaments but only six Finals stints, UST had often fallen short, experiencing sweeps in four championship rounds.

The efforts of players like Aljon Mariano and Kevin Ferrer, while commendable, were insufficient to clinch the elusive championship.

While seeing its seven-year dominancen come to an end, NU has elevated the quality of competition and prompted schools to beef up their lineups.

Next year promises to be an exciting season for UAAP basketball.

2023-12-06T10:16:10Z dg43tfdfdgfd