The new-look Far Eastern University Tamaraws, after a dismal first half, were able to lock down on defense in a second half surge in a dominant 77-64 win over the San Sebastian College-Recoletos Golden Stags Wednesday afternoon at the Filoil Flying V Centre in San Juan City.
The Tamaraws did not field Richard Escoto and Raymar Jose in this game as the team management gave the two a break after winning the PBA D-League Aspirants crown under the Phoenix-FEU Accelerator banner. In addition, Prince Orizu did not play as well as he is recuperating from a nagging injury.
The loss of the three was not felt by the Tamaraws in the first quarter as FEU was able to lock down on the Golden Stags on defense. The Stags were limited to just seven first quarter points.
The youth of the Tamaraws showed in the second frame however as the Stags were able to punish the Tamaraws with their ball pressure to force 19 turnovers in the half. On the other end, Ryan Costelo and Michael Calisaan combined for 15 first half points to trim the FEU lead to just three, 26-29, to enter the half.
“We had too many turnovers,” FEU head coach Nash Racela rued. “In the first half we had 19 then we finished the game with 35. We need to put importance in protecting the ball. In playing against pressing teams like La Salle, Adamson, UST, we’d be losing by 25.”
The Stags were able to gain their first and only lead in the ball game at the 5:24 mark of the third canto. With the Tamaraws holding a 37-34 lead, Jason David was able to knockdown a triple while, seconds later, Regile Ilagan was able to steal the ball from the inbound and find Dale Miguel for a layup for the lead.
San Sebastian’s lead though was only momentarily as the Tamaraws went on a 9-0 rally behind Monbert Arong and Steve Holmqvist. Filipino-American point guard Joe Trinidad was able to sustain the momentum in scoring five points while Steve Holmqvist added four more to his tally to end the quarter strong for the Tamaraws, 55-46.
“The objective in the tournament is to give these guys exposure while us coaches, we need to be patient,” Racela shared after the game. “That’s how they will learn and it’s all part of the process.”
In the final frame, the inexperience of the Stags showed as they delved away from their system as they went one-on-one on offense to the dismay of first year head coach Egay Macaraya. Debuting Nigerian student-athlete Chuk Nebedum took advantage of this as he willed his way inside to extend FEU’s lead 62-50 with 7:06 remaining. Kevin Abona and Joel Lee Yu were able to punch in buckets to extend their team’s lead to a game-high 17 points, 75-58, before the game ended at 77-64 in favor of FEU.
“We actually have 27 in the pool, the other players are in the other tournament,” Racela said after the game. “This tournament and the other one we joined will decide our final roster for the UAAP. Nothing is final yet.”
Monbert Arong led Tamaraws with 16 markers on an excellent 6/10 shooting clip. Steve Holmqvist and Joe Trinidad added 11 markers each.
Ryan Costelo was the high point man for the other side with 15 points. Last season’s Most Improved Player in the NCAA Michael Calisaan added 13 points and eight boards.
The FEU Tamaraws (A, 1-0) will have a tough assignment in their next outing as they face the Arellano University Chiefs (A, 1-0) on Saturday, May 7 at 5:00pm. The San Sebastian Stags, on the other hand, face the College of Saint Benilde Blazers on the same day at 1:30pm.
FEU (77) – Arong 16, Holqvist S. 11, Trinidad 11, Denila 9, Ebona 5, Nunag 5, Tuffin 4, Nebedum 4, Holqvist K. 4, Lee Yu 4, Comboy 2, Dennison 2, Roxas 0, Bienes 0.
SSC-R (64) – Costelo 15, Calisaan 13, David 9, Valdez 9, Gayosa 8, Miguel 4, Mercado 2, Fabian 2, Capobres 2, Ilagan 0, Johnson 0, Baetiong 0, Bulanadi 0, Serajosef 0.
Quarterscores: 19-7, 29-26, 55-46, 77-64.
Photo courtesy of Arvin Lim