By Ceej Tantengco
All signs had pointed to a terrible season for the UST Growling Tigers. John Lee Apil had died in a freak accident before UAAP Season 69, the remaining players kept getting sick, and after winning just two games in the first round, expectations were so low that unclaimed tickets littered the dorm room floor.
Screw expectations, though.
In little over a month, the Growling Tigers won five straight games to make the Final Four. They steamrolled over the UE Red Warriors’ twice-to-beat advantage, and found themselves in the finals against the Ateneo Blue Eagles. By then, they were begging UST’s priests for extra tickets.
Game 1 was almost theirs, had it not been for Doug Kramer burying a brutal buzzer-beater. The Growling Tigers came back with a vengeance, winning Game 2 by 16 points, and taking Game 3 into overtime. They were up by two with two seconds on the clock when Jai Reyes took a Hail Mary halfcourt heave.
They knew this scene. They knew how it hurt to hope and to have that hope taken away. As Dylan Ababou fell to the floor after contesting Reyes’ shot, he pleaded. Give us this. Just this once. His prayers were answered.
Against all odds, against all predictions, against all common sense—they were champions.
Where were you when UST defied expectations? #WWYW
Special thanks to Ceej Tantengco; SLAM Philippines; Gatorade Philippines