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Tams twit Eagles, force rubber

Ateneo Blue Eagles’ Isaac Go prevents FEU Tamaraws Barkley Eboña (left) and Alejandro Inigo from getting near the ball as he himself is being shackled during their semifinal match yesterday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum. Miguel De Guzman

MANILA, Philippines — Hold your horses on that dream La Salle versus Ateneo finale: Far Eastern U just placed itself in the mix as a potential opponent for waiting finalist Green Archers.

Recognizing they needed to be at their very best to have a chance against the efficient Blue Eagles, the fourth-seeded Tams produced their A-game for 40 minutes and reaped dividends with an 80-67 shocker over the top-ranked Ateneans yesterday at Smart Araneta Coliseum.

For their gutsy effort, the Tams brought their UAAP Final Four duel with Ateneo down to a rubber match, where there’s now equal chance to win a seat in the championship series versus holder DLSU, which advanced via an 82-75 disposal of No. 3 Adamson Saturday.

“We definitely played our best game so far,” said FEU coach Olsen Racela, whose crew managed to “start strong, sustain the momentum, and finish strong” en route to giving Ateneo its worst beating this season.

“Right before the game, I told them we’re peaking at the right time and our season won’t end yet. Now we’re really looking forward to that Wednesday game for the growth of these players,” he added.

Ron Dennison (17), former AdMU duo Arvin Tolentino (11) and Hubert Cani (11) along with Prince Orizu (10) and Richard Escoto (nine) stood at the forefront of the FEU charge, particularly in the second half, where they stormed ahead by as many as 17.

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Given virtually little chance, the Tams suddenly stand in striking position to actually throw a wrench on the DLSU-AdMU title rematch.

“Palagi kong sinasabi sa kanila, one game, one game. Before the game today, sabi ko (I told them) narrow your focus and just focus on today’s game; don’t think about what happened in the past, how we got to the Final Four; don’t think about the next game, just think about today’s game. It will be the same for Wednesday,” said Racela.

Dennison and Cani presided over a third-quarter surge that enabled FEU to seize a 59-48 margin from a close 43-40 game.

“Sobrang disiplinado ang Ateneo, kailangang maging mas disiplinado kami sa kanila (Ateneo is so disciplined and for us to compete against them, we have to be more disciplined),” said Cani, whose shot-clock-beating trey gave FEU its biggest lead at 75-58.

Thirdy Ravena topscored with 17 for AdMU, which after a 13-0 start, suffered a second straight defeat. They came off a 76-79 loss to DLSU prior to yesterday.

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