For the third time this season, the Far Eastern University Tamaraws defeat the defending champions the De La Salle Green Archers. Relying on the fourth quarter heroics of Mike Tolomia and Carl Cruz, the Morayta-based squad beat back a second half comeback from the Archers to take the 65-62 win, Sunday at the Mall of Asia Arena.
The Tamaraws ushered in the game with a dominant display, holding La Salle’s leading scorer Jeron Teng to a dismal two points in the quarter. Mike Tolomia would lead the charge for the Tams with six points, while Jason Perkins would pick up the scoring reins for La Salle to answer back with six of his own. Though FEU would look poised to close the first quarter in lopsided fashion after taking a 13-8 lead approaching the final minute, a late run from the Archers would trim the FEU lead. At the end of the first, the Tamaraws would however retain the lead, 15-12.
R.R Pogoy would welcome the second quarter with a triple to extend the FEU lead. With Mark Belo finally finding his touch after a quiet first quarter, the Tamaraws would find themselves with the double digit lead, 30-18 halfway through the quarter. The return of veteran guard Thomas Torres to the floor after sitting out of most of the season due to an injury late in the quarter, along with baskets from Jeron Teng and Kib Montalbo would inject some life into the La Salle crowd late in the quarter. However it was the Tamaraws who would walk away with the halftime lead, 32-24.
The Tamaraws would open the third quarter with another run, with Tolomia drilling a triple to give FEU back the double digit lead, 41-31, with six minutes on the clock. Two triples from Almond Vosotros and Julian Sargent in the next few minutes would trim the lead to 46-41 approaching the final three minutes. A basket from FEU’s Belo would extend the lead to 48-41, but Vosotros would fire back for La Salle in the next play, making a rare four point play. Vosotros would manage to drain 13 points in the third quarter, shooting four of five from beyond the arc. Another trifecta from Vosotros would force the deadlock at 50-50 in the dying seconds, but Mike Tolomia would manage to fire back for FEU, draining a three of his own just before the buzzer expired.
A resurgent La Salle would open the fourth quarter putting up another strong fight, finally finding a way through FEU’s defensive lockdown. After trading runs and baskets for most of the first seven minutes, the Archers would finally take the lead from the Tamaraws, 60-58, after a basket from Arnold Van Opstal.
Tolomia however would fire back for FEU, scoring on a fast break attack and splitting a free throw opportunity in the next two minutes to put FEU back up, 61-60, with 1:16 left on the clock. The two teams would go on to trade turnovers in the next few plays, and the score would remain unchanged entering the final minute.
After another series of misses from both squads, FEU’s Carl Cruz would finally break the silence, sinking a lay-up despite being fouled to extend the lead for FEU, 63-60 with 22 seconds left on the clock. La Salle would have the chance to bounce back, but would be unable to deliver. Tolomia would manage to grab the offensive board, and would be fouled by Jeron Teng on the fast break. Tolomia would manage to sink one more for FEU, and would retain possession of the ball after the foul was declared unsportsmanlike, all with 7.7 left on the clock. Another free throw basket from Carl Cruz would seal the victory for the Tamaraws.
Mike Tolomia led the Tamaraws with 19 points, 8 rebounds, and 2 steals. Mark Belo contributed 15 points and 10 rebounds, while fourth quarter hero Carl Cruz had 7 points.
Jason Perkins led the Archers with 15 points and 13 rebounds. Almond Vosotros had 13 points, all in the third quarter. Leading scorer Jeron Teng was held to 8 points and 8 rebounds, and was held to a dismal two-of-seven from the field. Teng was diagnosed with dengue earlier in the past week, and had recovered only a few days prior to this game.
“It was really hard after that loss against Ateneo. This win is a reflection of the team’s character, “ said FEU head coach Nash Racela at the post-game conference. “It wasn’t easy beating La Salle. The Tams were persevering.”
“I don’t think we have the advantage…I have to remind them DLSU is still the better team on paper,” said Coach Racela after being asked about the twice-to-beat advantage.
The Tams and the Archers resume their post-season battle next Saturday at the Araneta Coliseum, in their first meeting of the semi-final proper. This is the third straight year FEU and La Salle play in a knockout game just before the Final Four.