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Belo ends FEU’s long wait



“Kelangan ko maibalik ang lahat ng naibigay sa akin ng FEU.”

Those were the words that FEU senior Mac Belo said to Tiebreaker Times after Game One.

UAAP Season 78 men’s basketball Most Valuable Player Mac Belo has been consistent all throughout the series, even fighting through cramps to give the Far Eastern University Tamaraws their 20th UAAP Men’s Basketball crown, 67-62, against their neighbors the University of Santo Tomas Growling Tigers Wednesday afternoon at the SM Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City.

Unlike the first two games of the series, the Growling Tigers quickly blasted the Tamaraws for an early 9-5 lead through the midrange shooting of senior foreign student-athlete Karim Abdul. With the offensive struggles of the Tamaraws, coach Nash Racela had no other option but to bring in Mac Belo at the 6:49 mark. Belo quickly made his presence felt with a quick conversion off the break. Abdul and Ed Daquioag, though, continued to push the pace to extend the UST lead to 13-7. Free throws kept the FEU Tamaraws close by converting on seven of their eight attempts, while a stepback jumper by Mike Tolomia with 1:04 remaining cut the UST lead to 19-18 to enter the second frame.

The Tamaraws were able to gain a two-point lead, 24-22, after a long corner jumper by Russel Escoto and a picture perfect fastbreak layup by Tolomia midway through the quarter. Just as FEU were about to take the momentum, Vigil and Abdul quickly churned in a 6-0 run to regain the lead. However, Belo would push his team to close out the half with a 6-2 run, capped by a three point play to enter the break at a deadlock, 30-30.

Kevin Ferrer opened the half by converting only his second field goal of the game after a floater. FEU senior Francis Tamsi converted two rainbows, while two midrange jumpers by Belo extended the FEU lead to 40-34 at the 6:23 mark of the third quarter. The FEU charge continued as Belo and Pogoy teamed up to give the Morayta cagers the biggest lead of the game, 51-41, with 1:28 left. The Growling Tigers, though, finished strong after free throws by Kent Lao and a buzzer-beating corner three by Marvin Lee to cut the FEU lead to five, 51-46, to enter the final frame of the tournament.

Belo then succumbed to cramps just 31 seconds into the final quarter. With Ferrer struggling to even get the ball, the other UST Growling Tigers needed to step-up to end their campaign with a championship. Daquioag heeded the call, scoring six points in a 16-0 rally heading into the end of the third quarter. This gave UST a 57-51 lead with 6:03 left, as Racela immediately called for a timeout to regroup his startled troops and bring Belo back in.

After the timeout, Belo muscled his way to the paint for a lay-in but was quickly answered by a banker by Daquioag. Pogoy then torched his defenders for a fastbreak layup and a jumper to cut the UST lead to just a solitary point, 59-58. After a timeout, rookie Marvin Lee missed two three-pointers while sophomore Lao split his free throws with 1:46 left. Excellent play by Escoto and Pogoy led to a top-of-the-arc three-pointer by the latter to give FEU the lead. Another miss by Lee from downtown led to a quick fastbreak layup by Tolomia to give the Green-and-Gold a 63-60 lead with 1:01 left. UST head coach Bong dela Cruz called for the team’s last timeout to stem the defensive leaks.

After the timeout, Daquioag was able to convert two free throws off a foul by Belo, while a split by Tolomia on the stripe gave UST a chance to at least tie the ball game. However, after a looseball that went in favor of the Tigers, Abdul stepped out of bounds with 21.7 ticks left. Another split on the stripe by Belo gave FEU a three-point lead. Coming from the miss, Daquioag ran past all five FEU defenders but overcooked the finish. Free throws by Escoto extended the FEU lead to 67-62. Desperate three-point attempts by Ferrer missed, as the Far Eastern University bagged their 20th UAAP Men’s Basketball seniors crown in front of a jam-packed crowd of 23,124 fans from both schools.

“My initial reaction was just to be thankful to the Lord,” third year FEU coach Nash Racela said after the game. “It was a hard fought game.”

“Mindset ko lang ay ibigay ko ang lahat dahil wala ng bukas,” Belo said. “Andun talaga yung pressure pero kelangan namin stumep-up para manalo.”

Mac Belo led all scorers with 23 points on 7/13 shooting from the field and 9/11 shooting from the foul stripe. He also grabbed eight rebounds in the final collegiate game of his career. Fellow senior RR Pogoy had 14 points while Tolomia, who had another horrid shooting performance of 4/17, scored 13 markers.

Ed Daquioag was the high point for the runners-up, scoring 21 points on 7/16 shooting; however, he committed a game-high six turnovers. Abdul fought off foul trouble, scoring 12 points and grabbing five boards. Smart Elite ambassador Kevin Ferrer, who was defended all game long by Belo and Pogoy, was limited to just seven shot attempts, scoring just six points in his final UAAP game.

As a team, UST shot better shooting 37.5% from the field compared to 33% by the champions. However, the Tamaraws out-rebounded the Growling Tigers 45-37 and shot better from the charity stripe, 21/26 in contrast to 16/25 by UST.

With the win, the Far Eastern University continue their streak of winning at least one basketball championship in each decade, since the UAAP was conceived. Moreover, they now have a two championship gap over the UST Growling Tigers in the Men’s Basketball championship over tally.

The Scores:
FEU (67) – Belo 23, Pogoy 14, Tolomia 13, Tamsi 6, Escoto Ru. 5, Inigo 3, Jose 2, Orizu 1, Arong 0, Dennison 0, Escoto Ri. 0, Trinidad 0.
UST (62) – Daquioag 21, Abdul 12, Lee 9, Ferrer 6, Lao 6, Vigil 6, Bonleon 2, Faundo 0, Huang 0, Sheriff 0.
Quarterscores: 18-19, 30-30, 51-46, 67-62.