For MVP Belo twice the pain, twice the gain
Olmin Leyba (The Philippine Star) - December 3, 2015 - 9:00am

MANILA, Philippines – Far Eastern U coach Nash Racela wrote the words “Patay Kung Patay” on the white board of the Tams’ dugout in Game Three of the UAAP Season 78 hoops rubbermatch and of all the souls in the room, it was their veteran forward, Mac Belo, who really took it to heart.

The 6-foot-4 Belo not only took charge in scoring but also sacrificed his body to hound UST gunner Kevin Ferrer and hassle for possession to the extent that he cramped out twice in the fourth. He was later named Finals MVP for leading the Tamaraws to the championship.

“Buong season ngayon lang ako nag-cramps (That was the first time I suffered from cramps all season long),” said Belo who rifled in 23 points and grabbed eight rebounds in FEU’s title-clinching 67-62 victory over the Tigers Wednesday.

“Iyon ang nasa isip ko (I was determined to stay true to our motto for the game),” he said.

Belo had to sit it out early in the fourth to get treatment and the Tigers took advantage to drop an 11-0 bomb and wrest the lead, 57-51. 

Racela sued for time and recalled Belo, who rushed to the scorer’s table like his leg wasn’t hurting.

“Talagang kailangan na maibalik ang momentum sa amin. Kaya pinakita ko ang energy para kahit paano ganahan uli sila (We should get the momentum back and I wanted to show energy I hoped would rub off on the team),” he said.

The ace from North Cotabato quickly pulled FEU one basket back before Roger Pogoy took over the offense and the Tams regained the upperhand. Belo then came through with a huge defensive stop, foiling Ed Daquioag’s shot before being limping out with 11.4 seconds left.

Belo took the Finals individual honors for his consistent performance highlighted by averages of 17.3 points, 10.7 rebounds and one block.

“I think the Finals MVP is something that Mac will share with his teammates – up to the last guy,” said FEU coach Nash Racela. “It was really a collective effort by the team that’s why he got that.”

Racela lauded Belo and the other half of FEU’s 1-2 punch, Mike Tolomia, for sacrificing personal glory in favor of team play. Belo and Tolomia embraced the “team play” concept and missed out on places in the Mythical 5.

“It says a lot about the players – putting your team ahead of yourself. We didn’t get any individual award because our players sacrificed. This (championship) is the common goal we had and now we get rewarded because of that,” said Racela.

The Tams cemented their status as the winningest squad in the league with 20 titles overall.

This triumph also erased the bitter memory of last season’s finals foldup against National U as well as the three other finals losses over the last six years.

“This is so sweet. Coach Nash was really a calming presence for all these players; they really matured tremendously the last couple of years. Heading into this season we knew we had a team that was, on the physical and skill level and also on the mental aspect, probably the best team since the Arwind Santos era (2005 championship),” said FEU athletic director Mark Molina.

According to Molina, the experience from last season and the entry of the likes of Monbert Arong, Prince Orizu and a healthy Russel Escoto helped a lot.

“I think last year, we’re not deep enough. Mac, Roger and Mike were fresher because Nash used a lot of people during the course of the season. It prepared them for a three-game series and the finishing kick we had this year was the difference compared to last year against NU,” he said.

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