MANILA, Philippines — Mayday Canuto hit the game-winning basket as National University survived University of Santo Tomas in overtime, 77-76, to secure a spot in the UAAP Season 86 women’s basketball Final Four on Sunday at Mall of Asia Arena.
After the Lady Bulldogs trailed 75-76, Canuto scored her lone field goal to put her squad ahead with 1.2 seconds remaining. The Growling Tigresses failed to inbound the ball off a timeout as the defending champions prevailed in a highly emotional and physical game.
“That shot of Maymay Canuto doesn’t just happen today,” said NU coach Aris Dimaunahan. “She really works hard every single day. I’ve been seeing her really locked in. She is doing extra work, getting shots out after practices. She planted those seeds in the last few months.”
NU booked its ninth straight trip to the Final Four as it won its seventh consecutive game to improve to a 9-1 record with an average winning margin of 19.14 points.
“The endgame was a grind-out win for us,” said Dimaunahan. “I have to give credit to our players for playing together and for each other out there until the final buzzer.”
The Lady Bulldogs blew a 57-40 lead late in the third quarter as the Tigresses leaned on Eka Soriano, Apple Maglupay, Tacky Tacatac, Rocel Dionisio, and Kent Pastrana for a 72-69 advantage with 12.5 seconds to go.
Tin Cayabyab forced OT after sinking a buzzer-beating three.
Karl Pingol powered NU with 21 points, seven rebounds, two assists, and two steals. Cayabyab and Princess Fabruada chipped in 11 points each. Stef Berbarabe had 10 points, five rebounds, three assists, and four steals, while Jainaba Konateh added eight markers and 16 rebounds.
UST slid to the third seed with a 7-3 record despite Pastrana’s 16 points, seven rebounds, four steals, and two assists. Tacatac contributed 12 points, seven rebounds, four steals, and three assists, while Soriano and Ferrer added 11 each.
Meanwhile, University of the Philippines got back at first-round tormentor Ateneo with a vengeful 71-48 rout to inch a win closer to the Final Four.
The troika of Louna Ozar, Favour Onoh, and Kaye Pesquera led the Fighting Maroons to bounce back against the Blue Eagles, who prevented them from sweeping the first round with their first loss of the season two weeks ago.
Ozar led the way with 17 points, four steals, two rebounds, and two assists. Onoh dropped 13 points, 12 rebounds, and four blocks, while Kaye Pesquera had 11 points, five rebounds, and five steals.
“We’re happy for this win but now, we have to stay focused on the next game,” said Filipino-French rookie Ozar.
UP tightened its grip on the second seed with an 8-2 record after forcing 38 turnovers from the Blue Eagles, where they scored 31 points. The Fighting Maroons had 23 steals.
“Really proud of them. We committed ourselves in our game plan and the only thing that we talked about is they’re gonna give all their best every minute that they will play and it really showed,” said UP coach Paul Ramos.
MVP frontrunner Kacey Dela Rosa, who was averaging 19.5 points before this game, was limited to just nine points on a 3-of-18 clip from the field despite grabbing 16 rebounds as the Blue Eagles dropped to a 6-4 card still in fourth place.
Junize Calago led Ateneo with 15 points and 12 rebounds but committed 13 turnovers, as Jhaz Joson was held to just six points with seven turnovers in her 27 minutes of playing time.