MANILA, Philippines -- Rhenz Abando opted not to speak to reporters after his late scoring explosion for University of Santo Tomas (UST) fell just short in their crucial game against De La Salle University on Wednesday afternoon.
With the Growling Tigers down by 10 points, 78-68, in the final 10 minutes, Abando went to work. The transferee from Pangasinan waxed hot from beyond the arc and drained three consecutive triples, the last of which made it a one-possession game, 80-77, with 10.2 seconds left.
He was very nearly the hero after UST forced Andrei Caracut to commit a turnover, and Abando pulled up in transition for a long range shot. He drained the jumper, but replays showed that his right foot was clearly on the line. That allowed La Salle to hack out an 80-79 win, and prevented the Growling Tigers from clinching a Final 4 spot.
A clearly disappointed Abando did not speak to media after the game, which saw him score 13 of his team-high 19 points in the final quarter. He made 5 of his 10 shots, including 4 of 8 three-pointers.
It was Abando's best scoring performance since he put up 21 points in an 87-74 overtime win over National University in the first round.
UST head coach Aldin Ayo had no complaints about the call that kept them from sending the game to overtime.
"'Yung stepping, well, stepping talaga eh," he admitted. "I saw it. So that was a good call."
The game was another chapter in what has been a topsy-turvy week for Abando. He immediately established himself as a fan favorite in España for his athleticism and shooting, but was also embroiled in a recruitment controversy last week when it was revealed that other UAAP schools were trying to "poach" him from UST.
Abando, whose scoring had taken a dip since his fiery start to the season, showed that he remains as explosive as ever. But for Ayo, the swingman is simply doing the job asked of him.
"Nothing special naman eh. Lahat naman ng mga players, sinasabihan ko na 'pag pinasok kayo, well kailangan nila maglaro," he said. "You just have to do your part. Nothing special naman."
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