MANILA, Philippines—After leading University of Santo Tomas (UST) to a breakthrough Finals appearance, Congolese center Grace Irebu is now ready to shine on the biggest stage.
Irebu had a game-high 28 points, 14 rebounds and 3 blocks, as the Golden Tigresses fended off a fourth-quarter rally by Far Eastern University for a 76-65 win. The center iced the victory in the dying seconds, scoring the transition layup that pegged the final score.
A delighted Irebu touted her team's heart and fighting spirit after the game, noting that UST rebounded well from a shock 46-45 loss to the Lady Tamaraws in their game Wednesday.
"In the first game, we did not played well, all team. So we tried this game to do our best. We don't give up, we start strong and we finished strong," said Irebu, who was limited to 10 points in Game 1.
Irebu played through pain on her right shoulder, having gotten injured in the first game. She did not have her most efficient game, shooting just 9 of 23 from the field while also committing 8 turnovers. But she was a constant source of strength for her teammates, and her effort was praised by head coach Haydee Ong.
"I'm asking her the whole game, 'Are you still OK? Are you still OK?' She wants to finish the game. I think she has the golden heart of the Lady Tigresses now," said Ong.
Irebu's focus is now on the National University Lady Bulldogs, the powerhouse squad that has won 94 straight games and is seeking a sixth consecutive women's title.
She will have a great challenge in the finals as she will deal with NU's strong frontcourt of Jack Animam and Rhena Itesi.
It is a task that Irebu said she is prepared for.
"Against NU, I'm getting ready. I'm ready for that game," she stressed. "I'll to do again, my best, every game."
"I'm the MVP, every game I want to improve, because it's not for nothing I get the award in back-to-back, MVP. So every game, I want to prove," she added.
Irebu acknowledged that the NU frontline is "strong," but she is unfazed.
"I will do my best during that game, to stop them. That's what I will do. I'm so ready to play in that finals," she said.
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