By Michael Angelo S. Murillo
Senior Reporter

THE University of the Philippines Fighting Maroons and University of Santo Tomas Growling Tigers make one last go for a spot in the finals of UAAP Season 82 in a do-or-die match in their step-ladder semifinal joust today at the Mall of Asia Arena.

Forced after fourth-seeded UST hacked out an impressive 89-69 victory last time around to negate the twice-to-beat advantage of number two team UP, the Tigers are out to complete the sweep and barge into the championship for the first time since Season 78 while the Maroons try to stay alive and make it back-to-back University Athletic Association of the Philippines finals appearances.

Waiting for them in the finals are the three peat-seeking Ateneo Blue Eagles, who booked a direct ticket to the championship series after sweeping the elimination round.

In their first game on Nov. 10, the Tigers used a collective effort to pound on the Maroons, who just could not recover after being left behind by UST midway into the opening quarter.

Season most valuable player Soulemane Chabi Yo and rookie Rhenz Abando led the Tigers in the win with 17 points each with the former adding 15 boards.

Rookie Mark Nonoy had 16 points while Sherwin Concepcion and CJ Cansino made key baskets in different junctures of the game to finish with 12 and 11 points, respectively.

For UP it was Juan Gomez De Liano who led with 20 points with Bright Akhuetie following him up with 19 points and 18 rebounds.

“It’s all about execution both on offense and defense. The players followed our game plan and my instructions and it really paid off in this game,” said UST coach Aldin Ayo after the game as he discussed what did it for them in the victory.

Despite the momentum on their side, Mr. Ayo said they are not leaving anything to chance and vowed to work harder as they are bracing the Maroons to make the necessary adjustments come the rubber match.

“They’re (Maroons) going to adjust. I think they’re going to be physical. In a do-or-die match you need to do everything you need to do to win. I don’t expect them to play dirty but the physicality will be there and we have to be ready,” said Mr. Ayo.

Adding. “We need to get over this (Sunday’s) win. We have to prepare and go out and play our best.”

For the Maroons, the mission order is clear — win or go home.

The Maroons have yet to win against the Tigers in three matches to date in Season 82, something coach Bo Perasol said they have to find a way to address.

“They outhustled us again. We have to match their aggressiveness because if not they will just continue to dominate us,” Mr. Perasol said.

“Good thing we still have one game to play to make the adjustments and still vie for a spot in the finals. But we have to play better. We have to be better,” he added.