Bitter, tougher the 2nd time
Lito Tacujan (The Philippine Star) - December 3, 2015 - 9:00am

MANILA, Philippines – It’s harsher, tougher, harder the second time.

Two times in three years the Growling Tigers were denied the UAAP men’s basketball crown. The first in 2013 ended with a boner and the La Salle Green Archers romped away with the title.

This time they yielded to a team with a tenacious defense, a tradition to uphold, a gnawing hunger to get back on top and lost to the FEU Tamaraws, 67-62.

No sooner had the final buzzer sounded that social media began churning out posts praising and saluting the victors and dropping some nasty asides on the vanquished, including the rehashed taunt on the streets around the España campus “being flooded with tears.”

“Luhaan. They break your heart, always break your heart,” said one grizzled Thomasian.

Bitter a second time, twice the grief, the strain.

Any jaded sports buff could accept defeat. There will be winners, there will be losers. Sporting contests are battles that could be likened to life’s everyday struggles and one lives with them.

But there are defeats that rankle no end, fester like a sore.

This is one of them.

Before some 23,000 fans at the MOA Arena, the Tamaraws pulled off the win by forcing the Tigers to play out of character, agonize through individual play so unlike the gung-ho brand they dished out in Game Two.

The Tigers blew cold, blew hot, blew cold and finally succumbed with costly endgame errors  and the Tamaraws escaped with the win.

UST kept it close behind Ed Daquioag’s heroics, but without crisp ball movement and Kevin Ferrer stuck with a jammed gun, there were telltale signs they would lose the initiative in the grinding pressure in a matter of time.

It became a case of destiny or debacle in the closing seconds of the contest. But with Mac Belo’s heart of steel and Roger Pogoy’s steady sniping, the Tamaraws secured their 20th title, leaving the Tigers with yet another botched title bid.

Hours before the final showdown, the UST campus was a sea of yellow with young diehards moving about proudly clad in their Tiger t-shirts.

They were hoping for UST’s 19th crown and a snap to a 10-year title drought.

But it didn’t go their way. The championship did not end with a Tiger growl but a whimper, a pained feeble of a holler that would echo through their ranks in the months to come.

Until a new season beckons, stirring fresh wave of hope.

ACIRC ATILDE ED DAQUIOAG ESPA GAME TWO GROWLING TIGERS KEVIN FERRER LA SALLE GREEN ARCHERS MAC BELO ROGER POGOY TAMARAWS
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