Nic Cabañero unleashed 33 points to give University of Santo Tomas a 69-60 squeaker over Adamson University in the UAAP Season 85 men's basketball tournament opener at the SM Mall of Asia Arena on Saturday.
Jerom Lastimosa pulled the Soaring Falcons back within three after a triple with 56.4 seconds left in the match, 60-63.
But it was all Growling Tigers after that with Cabañero draining a jumper before Paul Manalang and Christian Manaytay drained their freebies to completely ice the game.
"It's overwhelming kasi grabe 'yung suporta ng Thomasian community. We're very grateful nandiyan sila through thick and thin," said UST head coach Bal David, winning his debut in the premier collegiate league.
Aside from his scoring which he made efficiently, going 13-of-18 from the field, Cabañero chipped in four assists, two rebounds, and a steal even though he committed nine turnovers as well.
"Sobrang overwhelmed and blessed kasi pinagdadasal ko kasi I'm turning 19 kasi this Monday. Lagi kong ipinagdadasal na ibigay sa amin itong first win, hindi lang first pati 'yung upcoming games," said Cabañero.
Manaytay added seven points, while Senegalese foreign student-athlete Adama Faye got seven points with 15 rebounds, two blocks, and two steals.
Lenda Douanga paced Adamson with 13 points and 13 rebounds, while Joshua Yerro had the same scoring tally.
Lastimosa, last season's leading scorer of the league, was limited to just 10 points on 4-of-11 shooting from the field.
Both squads will be back in action on Wednesday at the PhilSports Arena in a quadruple-header.
UST will next face De La Salle University at 4:30 pm. Earlier at 1 pm, the Soaring Falcons look for their first victory against defending champion University of the Philippines.
UST 69 -- Cabanero 33, Manaytay 7, Faye 6, Pangilinan 6, Mantes 5, Mantua 4, Calimag 3, Duremdes 2, Herrera 2, Manalang 1, Lazarte 0, Magdangal 0, Laure 0.
Adamson 60 -- Douanga 13, Yerro 13, Lastimosa 10, Hanapi 10, Sabandal 9, V. Magbuhos 3, Barcelona 2, Colonia 0, Manzano 0, Flowers 0, Barasi 0, Torres 0, Manlapaz 0, Jaymalin 0.
Quarterscores: 23-18, 42-38, 48-42, 69-60.