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Championship punctuates Tolomia’s grind



Unlike former Tamaraws RR Garcia and Terrence Romeo, Mike Tolomia will leave the collegiate ranks as champion.

Tolomia has been much-maligned in social media for his poor-shooting performance during the playoffs of the 78th Season of the UAAP Men’s Basketball Tournament. Little do people know, however, that recurring injuries have plagued the ace shot-creator for the Tamaraws for the entire course of the season.

During the Tamaraws’ first round game against the De La Salle University Green Archers, Tolomia sprained his ankle and had to sit out the fourth quarter of the game. The nagging injury bothered the fifth-year guard all throughout the season. Knowing that this was his final playing year, Tolomia never asked for leaves and never made excuses.

In their rivalry game against the University of the East Red Warriors last October 24, Tolomia’s ankle, once again, gave up on him in the third quarter. While their Morayta rivals were making their attempt to hijack the game, Tolomia asked his mentor, Nash Racela, if he could re-enter the game.

“Mike asked our staff if he could return to the game. We did not allow him kasi mahaba pa naman yung season,” Racela said during the post-game conference of the said game. “Gustong-gusto talaga niya bumalik pero sabi namin huwag na.” Again, the injury had recurred once more in their second-round encounter against the University of Santo Tomas Growling Tigers.

Bruised and hurt, Tolomia still went on to play all 14 regular season games with averages of 12.4 points, 1.5 triples, 4.1 boards, and 4.7 dimes per outing.

In the playoffs, Tolomia clearly lost lift in his picture-perfect jumper and a spring in his elevation, as he shot just 21.7% from the field. Nevertheless, FEU’s skipper still played his heart out, contributing to the best that he could by increasing his rebounding average to five boards and his assists to 4.3 in FEU’s playoff campaign that culminated to the school’s 20th Men’s Basketball crown.

Philippine Sports News - Tiebreaker Times Championship punctuates Tolomia's grind    Tolomia, being the gamer that he is, knows that his shots will not always fall. “Hindi talaga ako nag-woworry sa mga shots ko. Kasi alam ko naman na normal lang naman magmintis sa basketball,” Tolomia shared. “Hindi talaga ako affected dun.”

Even with the slew of injuries Tolomia encountered this season, Racela never lost confidence in his ace guard. The Tamaraw skipper admitted that the confidence given to him by his mentor removed any unnecessary doubts he had on the court. “Sobrang importante talaga yung tiwala niya sa akin. Pag naglalaro ako, wala na kong iniisip dahil sobrang laki ng tiwala niya sa akin. Ayun sana nasuklian ko ngayon,” a pumped up Tolomia told Tiebreaker Times.

Tolomia knows that he was much-criticized on social media for not “stepping-up” for the big moments. With his adrenaline pumping, he jokingly told his detractors, “Sa mga nagsasalita ng ganun sa akin, mga hindi naman marunong mag-basketball mga yun e.”

“God bless na lang sa kanila. Eto o champion na ako,” pointing to his UAAP Season 78 gold medal.

It was neither arrogance nor confidence that was speaking for Tolomia during that moment. It was relief. A perfect punctuation to a nine-year journey with the Morayta-based squad.

This was his vindication to the grind of being a student-athlete. This was his victory over the countless detractors he has encountered. This was his triumph over the handful of injuries and heartbreaks that have passed him.

“Sobrang saya. Alam naman natin na sobrang tagal ng hindi nag-champion yung FEU. Saktong-sakto pa dahil tapos na playing years ko,” he closed. “Nine years ako sa FEU. Ngayon lang ako nag-champion, sobrang sarap pala ng feeling!”

Like his batchmates Kiefer Ravena, Gelo Alolino, Arnold Van Opstal, and Dan Sara, Mike Tolomia is now a champion, and no one can ever take that away from him.

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