MANILA, Philippines – University of Santo Tomas (UST) team captain Marvin Lee could only give thanks to God after the Growling Tigers avoided the mortification of a winless campaign in the UAAP Season 80 men’s basketball tournament.
The 88-85 victory in their final game of the season against University of the East (UE) was UST’s first and only win in Season 80, ending a 17-game losing streak that spanned 393 days.
Their last victory came on October 15, 2016, a 73-69 triumph over National University.
“Siyempre, thank you Lord na binigay mo sa ‘kin ‘yung hinihiling kong isa, na sana huwag kaming mag-0-14,” Lee said when asked of his reaction at the final buzzer.
It was a hard-fought victory for the Growling Tigers, who squandered a 14-point lead in the first period, then had to survive several comeback attempts by the Red Warriors in the final two minutes of the game.
“Siyempre, para sa akin, masarap ‘yung feeling na nanalo,” said Lee, who scored 11 points in the win, including a pair of clutch free throws with 11.1 seconds left. “Sabi nga, parang nag-champion na kami pagdating doon.”
Indeed, it was an emotional victory for the Growling Tigers, who hugged their embattled coach, Boy Sablan, in delight after the win.
“Masaya siyempre,” Lee said of the atmosphere in their dugout after the win. “Hindi naman kami nag-party. Nag-sharing lang kami at nag-thank you, thank you kami sa isa’t isa, na nag-stick together pa rin kami.”
More than themselves, however, Lee was happiest for the UST supporters who showed up and cheered for them on Sunday. Much has been said of how the UST crowd had steadily dwindled as the season went on, but against UE, they were out in force.
“Parang na-boost ako,” Lee said. “Lalo na noong lamang kami. Feeling ko, may katulong ako sa likod ko, na ‘di ako papabayaan.”
“Hindi lang ito para kay Coach Boy,” he also said. “Para sa buong UST ito, kasi mahirap mapunta sa history na ganoon.”
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