MANILA, Philippines -- Aldin Ayo's drought against his former team continues.
University of Santo Tomas fell short against De La Salle University on Wednesday, losing 80-79. The loss marked the second time this season that the Green Archers beat the Growling Tigers; Ayo has yet to claim a win against La Salle since he took over as UST's head coach last year.
"Sa akin, hindi pa tamang oras para matalo 'yung mga 'yan," said Ayo, whose team also bowed to La Salle in the first round, 92-77. The Tigers also lost both of their assignments against the Green Archers in Season 81.
The Growling Tigers were in control in the first half, leading 44-37 at the break before the Green Archers mounted a comeback. La Salle outscored UST, 26-13, in the pivotal third quarter to seize control, and they led by as many as 12 points in the final period.
It was Rhenz Abando who sparked UST's comeback, as he caught fire from behind the arc and drained three consecutive triples. He would have sent the game to overtime with another long-range bomb, but his right foot was on the line when Abando nailed a shot with just over a second left.
Ayo had no complaints regarding the call that kept them from forcing an extra session.
"'Yung stepping, well, stepping talaga. I saw it. So that was a good call," he said.
However, Ayo took issue with a call made earlier in the fourth quarter. Abando was called for a goal-tend with 4:57 left as he tried to block Aljun Melecio's lay-up. Melecio got the two points, putting La Salle ahead, 74-63.
"The referees, they had lapses also, kasi 'yung goaltending na 'yun, OK," said Ayo.
Still, Ayo knew that the blame was not on the referees.
"We had our lapses," he said. "We we cannot blame them (referees), kasi kung naglaro kami nang maayos, well, panalo sana kami. Pero may mga lapses."
He instead credited his former team for a game well played, noting that the Green Archers "deserve the win."
It was a costly defeat for the Growling Tigers. A win would have assured them -- and by extension, University of the Philippines -- of a spot in the Final 4. Instead, the race to the semifinals is heating up, with four teams still in the running.
Ayo is prepared for the tight race, having foreseen it ahead of the season.
"Ganyan 'yung UAAP ngayon," he said. "If you can remember 'yung sinabi ko sa press con, ang sinabi ko doon, it will be a very unpredictable season, which is ganoon talaga ang nangyayari. Kasi halos 'yung teams, mga pantay-pantay."
"So magdedepende na lang kung sino mas gustong manalo," he added.
UST plays its final elimination round game on Saturday against Adamson.
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