After it looked like FEU had wrapped up the victory, UST threatened to unravel everything. The Tamaraws righted the ship in time, and warded off the Kevin Ferrer-less Growling Tigers, 66-55. The Tamaraws’ versatile forward Roger Pogoy exploited the absence of the Tigers’ main wing defender, scoring 19 points to banner a balanced FEU offensive charge. Meanwhile, the misfiring Tigers were carried largely by the hulking Karim Abdul, who powered his way to 24 points in a losing effort. FEU’s victory keeps them in the hunt for first overall with a 7-2 record, along with ADMU and DLSU, while 4-5 UST remains just outside of playoff contention.
From the outset, the Tamaraws were the dominant force. Roger Pogoy single-handedly outscored the listless Growling Tigers in the first stanza, pouring in 8 points in a 24-7 opening blitz. All in all, 6 Tamaraws would score in the first quarter, on 56% shooting, befitting the league’s most efficient offense. The Tamaraws would only go from strength to strength from there, eventually outscoring UST 59-37 after three periods of play. The 22-point cushion allowed FEU Head Coach Nash Racela to reveal more of his hand, and the Tamaraws’ reserves came marching in by the final quarter. However, the undaunted Growling Tigers made sure FEU’s substitutes would not simply be marching to the tune of a victory parade. UST, still fielding mostly starters, applied a suffocating press to start the fourth, forcing error after error from FEU’s talented but mostly untested backups. Karim Abdul, along with fellow starters Sheak Sheriff and Louie Vigil, feasted on the extra possessions off the Tamaraws’ mounting turnovers, and orchestrated an 18-7 quarter for the Tigers. With UST’s momentum boiling over, Coach Racela reinserted Mac Belo and Roger Pogoy, steadying FEU’s course. Shortly after, a Pogoy And-1 effectively iced the game for the Tamaraws.
Six Tamaraws scored 5 or more points in a typically well-distributed display of offence. Mac Belo, as he always does for FEU, ably backed up Pogoy with 12 markers scattered throughout the contest. Two of Belo’s points were of the highlight reel variety, as with UST surging and the shot-clock expiring in the 4th, he nailed a fall-away jumper over two outstretched Growling Tigers. Also of note was Archie Inigo, who helped cook FEU’s hot start to the game. The skilful Inigo shot 3 of 4 in the first quarter en route to 6 of his eventual 8 points for the Tamaraws. Superstar shooter Mike Tolomia barely saw action in this contest, but still chipped in 4 points and a gem of an assist to Raymar Jose in only around 20 minutes.
The UST side had barely anything to cheer for outside of Abdul’s dominating performance. Swingman Louie Vigil scored 17 points, but it took him essentially that many shots as well to get there. The defensive-minded Sheak Sheriff also posted 8 points for UST, nearly double his average of 4.5 per game, but that was really a symptom of the Growling Tigers’ lack of answers on the offensive end. Aljon Mariano in particular was a disappointment for the unusually muted UST faithful. Expected to carry more of the offensive and defensive burden with Kevin Ferrer sitting out with a wrist injury, Mariano, who was in torrid form prior to this match, couldn’t even muster a solitary point for his Growling Tigers.