University of Santo Tomas savored its first win of the season after moving on from past controversies and undergoing major rehaul since the infamous "Sorsogon bubble" transpired in 2020.
It was a long journey for the embattled Tigers and head coach Jinino Manansala cannot help but feel slightly emotional after taking a 74-62 victory against the University of the East Red Warriors in the UAAP Season 84 men's basketball at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City Thursday night, March 31.
"Every game dine-dedicate namin sa Thomasian community. Heto na po 'yong hinihintay nilang panalo (We dedicate every game to the Thomasian community. This is the win you all have been waiting for)," said Manansala. "Although a long way to go, 'di ba? Thank God ulit. Our family, malayo kami sa kanila. Salamat sa dasal (It's a long way to go, right? Thank God for this win. Thank you for the prayers and to our family)."
Aside from team managers Ryan Roxas and Atty. Nilo Divina, sponsors and supporters of the Tigers, a familiar name was also mentioned by Manansala and in every way had a special connection to UST.
"We dedicate this also to Aldin Ayo. Miss na namin siya (We miss him)," added Manansala, who was part of the original coaching staff brought by the two-time collegiate champion tactician when he was appointed in Season 81.
Ayo, who was given a second chance as head coach of the Chooks-to-Go Pilipinas 3x3 squad, steered UST to its first final appearance in four years in Season 82.
UST showed a promising performance although the Tigers fell short against reigning champions Ateneo Blue Eagles.
Then the Covid-19 pandemic and the controversial bubble happened. The rest, as they say, is history for UST as it entered another rebuilding stage.
Despite all the adversities, Manansala and the Tigers decided to move forward and prove to other teams that they are not out of the picture just yet.
"Sa una pa lang gusto ko na talaga namin makuha 'yong panalo. Gusto namin i-prove na kahit nangyari sa amin, pinaghirapan namin since nag-bubble kami (We really wanted to win. We wanted to prove that despite what happened, we came a long way and we have prepared for his since our bubble training)" said Manansala.
"Very thankful kami sa panalo na 'to. Sabi nga namin kanina 'wag kaming mag-celebrate kasi we have a long way to go. Basta one game at a time kami (We're very thankful but we won't celebrate yet. We have a long way to go and we will take it one game at a time)."
With renewed confidence, UST guns for its second straight win against Adamson, which has an identical 1-2 record, on Saturday, April 2 at 4 p.m.