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UST coach happy his boys show signs of maturity

UST head coach Boy Sablan  (MB photo | Rio Leonelle Deluvio)

UST head coach Boy Sablan (MB photo | Rio Leonelle Deluvio)

By Jerome Lagunzad

University of Santo Tomas coach Rodil “Boy” Sablan emerged from their dugout last Wednesday night in high spirits, even throwing his arms in the air as if the Growling Tigers just pulled off a massive victory.

“From 22 points down to just one,” he told sports scribes while trying to squeeze his way out of the Smart-Araneta Coliseum hallway, perhaps sticking to the positives he saw in UST’s ferocious fightback that came up short in a 94-84 loss against Ateneo in the UAAP Season 80 basketball tournament.

“Unlike last year na ‘pag ganun na kami (down by a big margin), wala na. This year, napakita namin na kung ano talaga kami. We still keep on fighting. This is the hardest game (for Ateneo). We fought back from 22 points down to one (with more than six minutes to play).

While a victory remained elusive as UST slumped to its worst start in over decade since winning it all in 2006, Sablan expressed optimism that the Growling Tigers will get over the hump once they finally gather their acts together.

However, it won’t be happen overnight since the rebuilding Tigers, with eight new faces in the fold who were all recruited by Sablan himself, still need to undergo the painstaking process before becoming a legitimate threat to the league’s heavyweights.

Sablan had an up-close view of that when UST, mainly behind top gunner Marvin Lee and super sub Jordan Sta. Ana, unleashed a searing rally from a 69-47deficit in the third canto and pulled within a solitary point with more than six minutes left.

But just when it seemed they were on the verge of pushing the Blue Eagles to their limit, the Tigers crumbled like a house of cards as they missed eight straight attempts, muffed eight from the charity stripe and turned the ball over five times.