Tams outlast Tigers, capture 20th UAAP title

FEU senior guard Mike Tolomia attacks UST defense in Game 3 of the UAAP Finals. EC Toledo IV

MANILA, Philippines -- The FEU Tamaraws exorcised the ghost of their heartbreaking Finals loss last season by capturing their 20th men's basketball title, extending their winningest record in the UAAP, after outlasting the UST Growling Tigers, 67-62, on Wednesday before a huge sea of yellow-clad shirts numbering to 23,124 at the Mall of Asia Arena. 

The Tamaraws showed great composure down the stretch and survived one big furious run by the Tigers, who even led in the fourth quarter only to crumble under pressure at crunchtime. 

FEU leaned on its veterans Mac Belo and Mike Tolomia and RR Pogoy who all came up big in the stretch to recover from a 16-0 run by UST that saw the Tigers grabbing the lead, 57-51, midway in the final quarter. 

Mac Belo scored 23 points for the Tamaraws including a crucial free throw and put up a great defensive wall on Ed Daquioag in the closing seconds to slam the door hard on the Tigers.

"Nandun yung pressure pero nag-commit ang bawat isa. Ayun, nakabalik naman kami," said Belo, who cramped out after stopping Daquioag's drive in the final seconds of the nerve-wracking series finale. 

A Pogoy triple and a Tolomia daredevil drive gave the Tamaraws a 63-60 lead which they protected until the end. 

Pogoy hit seven of his 14 points in the fourth rallying FEU back into the game before Tolomia, Belo and Russel Escoto finished the job at the stripes. 

Tolomia bounced back from a woeful 0-of-15 shooting in Game Two by firing 13 points, four in the final 1:07 that helped FEU seal its most important victory of the season. 

The Tamaraws outscored the Tigers, 14-3 in the last 3:35 as they dared UST rookie Lee to try to beat them but the former FEU Baby Tamaraw missed his outside shots when the Tigers needed them the most. 

FEU also did a great job denying Kevin Ferrer the ball limiting him to just six points on 2-of-7 field goal shooting after the MVP runner-up tied his career-high with 29 in Game Two. 

Turnover after turnover killed the Tigers' hopes of making it two in a row against the Tamaraws with Karim Abdul and Daquioag losing the ball in crucial plays down the stretch. 

Daquioag led the Tigers with 21 points while Abdul and Lee wound up with 12 and nine, respectively. 

Their 20th championship was a redemption of sorts for the Tamaraws, who lost to the NU Bulldogs last season, by squandering a 1-0 series lead.  It appeared that history will repeat itself when the Tigers came back from a 10-point lead and grabbed the lead. 

But Pogoy, Tolomia and Belo, the acknowledged leaders of the Tamaraws, did not allow that to happen again. 

Belo was named the Finals MVP averaging 17.3 points, 10.7 rebounds and 1 shot block in the series. 

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