In a battle between two of the top teams in the 2018 SMART City Hoops 25-under Summer Classic, the Far Eastern University Tamaraws were able to outlast the University of the Philippines Fighting Maroons in overtime, 56-52, to secure an outright Finals berth, Thursday evening.
More than the win, the squad showed tremendous character in the contest that impressed FEU head coach Olsen Racela.
“I liked the way we grinded it out right from the start. It was a very low-scoring game,” shared the second-year Tamaraws tactician. “Everyone chipped in, kahit yung mga hinugot ko sa bench really helped. Their focus and awareness was there all throughout the game.”
Buckets were hard to come by in the contest as both teams brought their A-game to the contest.
However, with fatigue setting in overtime, the first to blink would lose. And Axel Inigo was there to take advantage of it.
With the game knotted at 52-all with 39 seconds remaining, the 5-foot-9 guard, who had eight points in the contest, blew by his defender to score the go-ahead floater. On the other end, Kenneth Tuffin was able to force David Murell to a tough lay-up that led to a split on the stripe for JR Parker.
“It was like a UAAP game, yung season na. It was a defensive game and really, what we emphasized every to the players — na ang focus is on the defensive end,” added Racela. “Yung offense kasi will take care of itself. Yung mga crucial baskets namin kanina, it came off our stops — yung breakaway, the and-one play. Yun yung emphasis namin, to play defense.”
UP had a chance to at least cut the lead with 16.5 ticks remaining. Diego Dario though committed a costly turnover, an inside pass to Bright Akhuetie that was easily intercepted by Inigo, that ultimately sealed the game for FEU.
Leading the way for FEU in regulation was Tuffin, finishing the game with 14 points and eight rebounds. Ino Comboy chipped in 10 markers as well.
The Fighting Maroons, who ended the round with a 4-1 slate and will face the Lyceum Pirates in the knockout quarterfinals, were paced by Bright Akhuetie. The Nigerian student-athlete had a double-double with 10 points and 15 rebounds but shot just 3-for-13 from the field.
UP ace Paul Desiderio was limited to just 10 points on a 3-of-11 shooting clip.
FEU 56 – Tuffin 14, Comboy 10, Inigo 8, Ebona 6, Parker 6, Cani 5, Orizu 3, Bienes 2, Jopia 2, Ramirez 0, Casino 0, Bayquin 0, Nunag 0.
UP 52 – Akhuetie 10, Desiderio 10, Manzo 9, Murrell 6, Gozum 4, Dario 2, Tungcab 2, Lim 0, Vito 0, Santiago 0, Longa 0, Espanola 0.
Quarterscores: 11-11, 17-18, 35-38, 50-50, 56-52.