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The Haydee Ong Effect: UST Tigresses’ Transformation Leads to Downfall of NU

MANILA, Philippines — When Haydee Ong took over as University of Santo Tomas women’s basketball coach in 2016, the Growling Tigresses lost their games in lopsided fashion to the mighty National University Lady Bulldogs.

They couldn’t even get past NU’s full-court press during those years.

But the blowout losses didn’t stop Ong from developing the UST women’s basketball program until the stars finally aligned and the Growling Tigresses ended the seven-year dynasty of NU and the school’s 17-year basketball title drought in the UAAP Season 86,

“I’m telling you hindi ako makatawid ng bola sa NU, ang lamang nila parati sa akin, 70 or 80 okay? But I never gave up. Sabi ko, I will start the program for UST and this is a long journey. We are three to four years behind, sinabi ko sa mga pari and you have to trust the program, the system,” said Ong after their dramatic  71-69 win.

The Tigresses displayed their never-say-die spirit in Game 3 as they never wavered even trailing by 15 late in the third. Graduating Tantoy Ferrer scored nine straight points down the stretch before Kent Pastrana eluded her defenders to tie the game at 69 with 26 seconds left.

Nikki Villasin delivered the championship-clinching layup with 11.8 seconds left to put UST on top of women’s basketball with 12 crowns.

Ong attributed their success to what they call “BTS,” which meant Belief in each other, Trust in the program, and Surrender everything to God.

“If you believe in each other, trust in each other, trust in the coaches, trust in the system and the program, and surrender everything,  you’ll have a great outcome,” said the UST coach. 

“And finally, the long wait is over. Ang sarap ng feeling, especially as a coach,” she added.

The Tigresses stopped an 11-year-long 20-game losing streak to the Lady Bulldogs in Game 1 before falling short in Game 2, which allowed NU to force a decider.

UST also became the newest women’s champion in 10 years since NU’s dynasty started in 2014 under Gilas Women coach Pat Aquino, who was replaced by Aris Dimaunahan last year.

“Isa palang naman kami. Sila seven na. I think, ang naprove ko is lahat ng teams ngayon arevery competitive because of NU. They raised the bar. Lahat is gaining up para umikli or lumiit yung gap against NU, and that’s why sabi ko sa girls, it’s a long journey, a long wait. Nagtiis kami and finally we are champions,” said Ong.

More than their Season 86 success, Ong is honored that the Tigresses’ emergence as the new queens is also a testament that women’s basketball is reaching new heights.

“That’s what I’m here for. Kaya hindi pa ako nagreretire. I really wanted women’s basketball to be as popular as the women’s volleyball, men’s basketball. But unti-unti, they saw how good basketball women players are playing right now. And in fact, maraming mga lalaki nanonood din because they are impressed with what women’s basketball is capable,” said Ong, who won championships from 1987 to 1990 as a UST player.



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“Grabe for the first time, kahit nung naglalaro ako sa UST, hindi yata nagyellow day. The community is superb. They do not just support only the men’s basketball or the volleyball teams, now that they know that women’s basketball is worth watching, and exciting as the men’s basketball. Thank you talaga, sa UST community,” she added.