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FEU Tamaraws shrugs off hot UE start, grabs share of UAAP lead

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The FEU Tamaraws continued their winning ways with a 73-63 victory over the slumping UE Red Warriors. The Tamaraws, who rise to the top of the standings at 3-1, were led by Mac Belo’s coolly efficient 21 points on only 12 shots. Paul Varilla, starting in place of Gino Jumao-os, top-billed for the Red Warriors with 12 points while UE superstar Roi Sumang prolonged his dismal form from the field.

Mike Tolomia, fresh off a stellar 18-point outing against the UP Fighting Maroons, carried the Tamaraws to an early 8-2 lead against the Red Warriors, who still looked shaken from their 4th quarter collapse against the DLSU Green Archers over the weekend. The Tamaraws’ shooting guard, enjoying his first campaign out of the looming shadows of FEU superstars RR Garcia and Terrence Romeo, sank a lay-up, a three and dished an assist in barely 3 minutes of play. FEU’s opening barrage shook the Red Warriors out of their stupor, and at the 7 minute mark, UE rocked the Tamaraws with a 20-1 run. With star gunner Roi Sumang off the mark to start the contest, the Red Warriors leaned on a balanced offensive effort and their signature full court press to pull away from FEU, 22-9. As the clock ran down on the quarter, Tolomia buried a three to cut UE’s lead to 10 and breathe some life to the moribund Tamaraws entering the second period.

The second quarter would see FEU’s offensive burden shift to Mac Belo and Anthony Hargrove, as the two immediately combined to fuel an 8-2 spurt for the Tamaraws. The muscular Hargrove, who finished with a strong 14 point 12 rebound stat-line, started the run with a powerful two-handed slam off a UE turnover. Tolomia would drain another triple to cut the Red Warriors’ lead down to 2, but UE’s Paul Varilla would immediately answer with his own to keep his team in front. Belo would pour in 4 more points as the Tamaraws kept the Red Warriors within striking distance, 31-32, as both squads left the court for half-time.

FEU’s Carl Bryan Cruz, who chipped in 7 markers, drew first blood in the third quarter, handing the Tamaraws the advantage. UE and FEU would trade baskets and the lead for the remainder of the third, neither side able to generate enough momentum to break away. Belo would power the Tamaraws with 8 points on a sizzling 3/3 from the field, while UE big men Charles Mammie and Moustapha Arafat bannered the Red Warriors’ efforts. Arafat, who would wind up with a near double-double of 8 points and 8 boards, channelled NBA great Hakeem Olajuwon with a beautiful Dream Shake at the 3:30 mark, juking two FEU defenders out of their shoes. Tolomia, quiet for most of the third, ended the period on a high note for the Tamaraws. Harassed by the attentive defense of Paul Varilla, Tolomia nailed a difficult pass to an open Cruz for a three-point basket, then quickly drove the length of the court to hit a one-handed runner as time expired. FEU would enter the decisive quarter with a nervy 3-point advantage, 52-49.

In the final period, FEU would keep UE at bay, holding a 5-point cushion with 3 minutes elapsed. The frustrated Roi Sumang, who would end the match with a meagre 7 points on abysmal 1/13 shooting, finally broke through for UE with a pair of free throws with 6:22 to go. Belo continued his torrid form for the Tamaraws with a tough pull-up jumper and a dish to Inigo for a three-point dagger. FEU would preserve that 10 point lead until the end of the match, clamping down on the Red Warriors’ desperate offense. Inigo would clinch the game for the Tamaraws, taking Arafat off the bounce and hitting the mid-range jumper for FEU’s final points of the match.

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