MANILA, December 20, 2002 (STAR) University of the East (UE) missed a ninth straight men’s crown but its women, coached by former long jump queen Elma Muros Posadas, fairly made up for the loss in University Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP) athletics action at the Rizal Memorial Oval.

Ateneo also made its presence felt in the meet, bagging the boys’ crown with plenty to spare.

University of Santo Tomas (UST) was responsible for snapping UE’s reign that ran close to a decade, and triumph the Tigers did in strategic fashion in the four-day competition that ended Wednesday.

The Tigers clinched just four gold medals to UE’s seven in men’s action but thanks to the format that awards corresponding points to the gold medal medal winner down to the last-place finisher in each event, the España-based athletes were able to frustrate the Red Warriors.

Besides the four golds, the Tigers also hauled five silvers — three more than UE’s —and six bronzes in emerging overall champions with 177 points. UE, which also had six bronzes, wound up in an unfamiliar spot in second with 169 points.

De La Salle came in third with 159 points on a 4-3-5 gold-silver-bronze tally, followed by Ateneo (2-2-3-121), Far Eastern (68), University of the Philippines (60) and Adamson (56) in the men’s action.

The women of UE, however, came to the rescue and won their first UAAP overall title almost unchallenged. Muros Posadas’s wards clinched seven gold medals — five in record fashion - and with eight silvers and four bronzes more, garnered a title-clinching 256 points.

UE, also handled by Jojo Posadas, also got the most valuable player award through Mercedita Manipol and the top rookie honors through Leah Adan.

***Tigers hurt even more By Nelson Beltran

If the PBA were to hand out a medal of valor, Coca-Cola should be a hands-down choice. Never has there been a team with so much courage as the Tigers.

But Coca-Cola has to brandish more than that in the Selecta All-Filipino Finals because of a big problem confronting the Tigers – severely crippled lineup.

Coach Chot Reyes will only have 10 players at his disposal as they face coach Tim Cone and his Alaska Milk Aces in Game Two of their best-of-five title showdown at the Araneta Coliseum at 6:15 p.m. tonight.

Reyes said Johnny Abarrientos is out for the rest of the finals with an orbital fracture surrounding his right eye while Jeffrey Cariaso, nursing a pulled groin muscle, is joining the Tigers only on Sunday at the earliest. Chris Bolado and Estong Ballesteros have long been sidelined by different injuries while Rafi Reavies is playing with a fractured right hand.

But Reyes has never ruled out the possibility of his Tigers bucking all their woes and getting back at the Aces tonight after a 67-70 defeat in Game One Wednesday at the Philsports Arena.

"Alam mo naman ang team na ito laban lang nang laban," said Reyes. "Kahit nga si Johnny gusto pang maglaro. Nagpagawa nga ng protective mask but I don’t think pwede pa siyang maglaro."

"Pakiramdam niya nalaglag ang panga niya, and his nose is still numb at the moment," Reyes added on the condition of Abarrientos following the incident he had two minutes into the second half of the series opener.

Abarrientos had been on fire before he suffered the injury. The one-time MVP awardee logged 20 points, two rebounds and the same number of assists and blocks in 17 minutes of action.

"Easily, 40 points ang nawala sa amin (on the ouster of Abarrientos and Cariaso)," said Reyes.

With his one-two punch out, Reyes said they will now try to win on defense, with the Tigers bidding to limit the offensive output of the Aces. He said: "We’ll try to keep the game close and hope for the best in the end."

"We’re not about to give up. If we can see Johnny trying to do whatever he can just to play despite the circumstances, who are we to tell the world that we have given up the fight?" he added.

In fact, Alaska coach Tim Cone didn’t dare close the door on a possible upset by Coca-Cola.

"They’re dropping like flies but they just continued to put pressure on us. They would just find a way to look you bad. They’re disrupting you on what you wanted to do," said Cone.

"Suddenly, we found ourselves the favorites in the series. But we’re not handling it well. We’re not playing well. We’re taking shots that should not be taken. We have to realize we can’t take them lightly. We can’t afford to give them life," he added.

Though Abarrientos joined Cariaso in the sideline, the Tigers played gallantly in Game One, keeping the game close up to the finish. They hustled a lot, forcing the Aces to 21 turnovers while limiting themselves to only 11.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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