By Michael Angelo S. Murillo
Senior Reporter

THE University of Santo Tomas Growling Tigers advanced to the next flight of the step-ladder semifinals of UAAP Season 82 after surviving the Far Eastern University Tamaraws, 81-71, in their knockout match on Wednesday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

Flexing their league-leading offense in the opening half, shooting at a 53% clip and 41% from beyond the arc (9-of-22), the Tigers left the Tamaraws in the dust early, building a considerable distance which the Tamaraws tried to make for but eventually could not recover from, keeping UST’s University Athletic Association of the Philippines campaign alive.

UST started hot from the outside, led by Brent Paraiso and Renzo Subido, to go on top, 15-4 in the opening three minutes of the first quarter.

FEU tried to reclaim lost ground after but the Tigers were just staunch in their hold of the upper hand, still in command, 20-9, at the 4:34 mark.

When the quarter smoke cleared, UST was ahead, 26-16.

Scoring started slow in the second frame as both teams jacked up their defense.

The count stood at 31-18 with seven minutes left to play.

Ken Tuffin and the Tamaraws drained some baskets after to somehow narrow the gap but Soulamane Chabi Yo and the Tigers kept capping the effect to a bare minimum.

Making matter matters worse for FEU was that it saw senior Barkley Ebona ejected in the closing minutes of the second quarter after getting a second unsportsmanlike foul.

By the halftime break, UST was very much in command, 54-28.

Pounded on big time in the first half by the Tigers, the Tamaraws came out with more spring on their attack in the third quarter, sprinting to a 26-10 run to cut their deficit to just 10 points, 64-54, with three minutes to play in the frame.

The Tigers survived FEU’s juggernaut, 70-56, entering the fourth quarter.

Getting the momentum it was looking for in the third, FEU looked to extend it in the fourth period.

The Tamaraws opened things with a 9-0 blast to cut their deficit to just five points, 70-65, with seven minutes to go.

Back-to-back baskets by Subido and Chabi Yo restored some order for UST as it took a 74-65 advantage heading into the last five minutes of the contest.

The Tamaraws attempted to move back closer but just could get the buckets they needed.

UST held a 75-65 lead in the two-minute mark before Subido drained a triple with 1:28 left to make it a baker’s dozen lead for the Tigers, 78-65.

Back-to-back triples by FEU, care of Tuffin and Xyrus Torres brought UST’s lead down to seven points, 78-71, with 34 seconds remaining.

The Tamaraws though would not come any closer than that after as free throws by Zach Huang and Paraiso put the game way for UST.

Chabi Yo led the way for the Tigers in the win, finishing with 25 points and 10 rebounds.

UST next faces second seed University of the Philippines in the step-ladder where it will have a twice-to-win disadvantage.

Making it further a solid day for UST was that Chabi Yo and Mark Nonoy collared individual awards in Season 82.

Beninese Chabi Yo won the most valuable player after leading UST back into the playoffs after missing the previous three season.

Chabi Yo garnered 76 statistical points, built on averages of 16.9 points and 14.7 rebounds, to top the race.

The UST foreign player beat De La Salle University’s Justine Baltazar (64 SPs) and Jamie Malonzo (63.23), University of the Philippines’ Kobe Paras (62.08) and University of the East’s Rey Suerte (60.93).

The five comprised the mythical team.

Nonoy, meanwhile, collected 39.29 SPs to bag the rookie of the year.

The awarding ceremony for Season 82 individual awards will take place prior to the start of Game Two of the finals on Nov. 20.