Tams seek return to glory years vs Tigers

Olmin Leyba - The Philippine Star

Game today (Smart Araneta Coliseum)

2 p.m. – Awarding ceremony

3:30 p.m. – FEU vs UST (men’s finals)

*FEU leads series, 1-0


MANILA, Philippines – The FEU Tamaraws are ready to exorcise the ghost of their ghastly meltdown last year in their quest for one victory that would relive their golden years in the country’s premier collegiate cage league.

But the UST Tigers hope to inflict the same misfortune on the Tamaraws, foil their bid for the UAAP men’s basketball crown in Game Two, and bring their best-of-three title duel to a deciding third game before an expected huge crowd at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

Tickets have been sold out two days before the showdown to underscore the pull this series has among school fans as the finalists showed why they were the best of the season with a torrid exchange of flurries in Game One.

FEU took that opener, 75-64, as its unforgiving defense took the Tigers out of their comfort zone to move within a win of nailing their 20th championship.

Gametime is set at 3:30 p.m. with the Tams looking to sustain the momentum of their masterful victory in the Season 78 finals.

“We expect them to come back strong,” FEU coach Nash Racela said of UST, which previously got the better of the Tams in the two-round eliminations.

Racela constantly reminded his wards to temper their post-Game One celebrations and keep their eyes focused on the ulimate prize. The Tams stood in the exact situation last year as they jumped the gun on the National U Bulldogs but suffered a major meltdown and yielded Game Two and eventually the rubber match.

“I think we learned our lessons from last year. We were up one game and we lost the next two. It’s a good reminder for us to be humble and continue to work to correct things so that we’ll get another win. That’s the objective,” said Racela.

“We got one win but the series is not over. We need another one,” he added.

This isn’t lost on the players.

“Yung last year, nanalo din kami ng una sa NU kaya wala pa dapat i-celebrate (We also won Game One last year so there’s no reason to celebrate yet),” FEU star Mike Tolomia said.

A 1-0 lead in the UAAP finale is not really safe. In the Final Four era, teams were able to overhaul a one-game deficit in the finals six times before. Aside from NU’s come-from-behind triumph over FEU last year, the league has seen the Tigers do the trick in Seasons 57, 58 and 69 while La Salle pulled it off in Seasons 62 and 76.

And UST is threatening to do it a fourth time.

“Hindi kami magpapangako basta gagawin namin ang lahat ng makakaya (We won’t promise anything but we’ll give it our all),” said UST skipper Kevin Ferrer.

“Bounce back kami (We’ll bounce back),” veteran guard Ed Daquioag quickly added.

Daquioag, in particular, looks to rebound from a lackluster performance that saw him struggle with four points before fouling out.

“Frustrated ako kasi hindi ko nailabas yung game pero sinabi nga ni coach, may Game Two pa, so tignan namin ang mistakes at i-correct (It’s frustrating not to be able to play my game but like coach said there’s still a Game Two. We’ll review our mistakes and correct them),” said Daquioag.

The Tams paced their players well, fielding them for 26 minutes or less to allow them to stay fresh for the final push. Five cagers led by Roger Pogoy, Mike Tolomia and Mac Belo finished in twin figures in a balanced scoring.

In contrast, Karim Abdul (19 points and nine rebounds in 36 minutes) and Ferrer (15 markers in 33 minutes) took heavy loads in scoring and minutes. Daquioag played for 29 minutes and Louie Vigil saw action for 27 minutes.

“Walang sisihan sa family namin (We don’t blame one another in our family). As a family we are down, nangyayari iyan so kailangan mag-regroup lang at maging happy kami uli (These things happen and we just have to regroup and bring back a happy disposition ahead of Game Two),” said UST coach Bong dela Cruz.

The Tams are gunning for their first title since 2005 and a league-best 20th overall.

Meanwhile, the season’s top individual performers led by back-to-back MVP Kiefer Ravena of Ateneo will be feted at 2 p.m.












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