ANTIPOLO — Whatever happens between now and Far Eastern University’s last game, Wendell Comboy can say that he has never missed a ticket to the Final Four.
In what was a make-or-break clash for the Tamaraws, they pulled out all stops to clinch an 82-58 win, Sunday. They also booked a spot in the post-season of the UAAP Season 82 Men’s Basketball Tournament.
“Sobrang saya ko lang kasi ito ‘yung pinaghirapan namin since day one. As a player, siyempre [gusto ko] ‘yung career ko mag-end with a bang, lalo na dito sa UAAP,” said the veteran cager.
“Hindi lang ito matatapos sa Final Four. We want more din kasi, kaya ‘di ba ‘All For More’?”
The fact that FEU enters the Final Four with momentum on their side highlights the growth of a team, which struggled in the first round. The worst result of that sequence was the 39-61 defeat at the hands of cellar-dwellers National University.
“Ang panigurado lang ako, we will never back down sa mga challenges.
“‘Yun ‘yung team namin ngayon. Kasi social media pa lang, a lot of mga hindi naniniwala sa amin, tapos madaming nag-bash at nag-hate. So para sa akin, isa sila sa mga nag-motivate sa amin to earn this spot,” said the 22-year-old guard out of San Mateo, Rizal.
If there’s one player who has epitomized FEU’s change in fortunes, it has to be captain Kenneth Tuffin. For Comboy, their leader’s string of performances in training and in games has pushed the whole squad to another level.
“Actually si Tuffin, nag-struggle siya nung first round, so after sa second round, pinakita niya how to bounce back from that. Parang kami, na-motivate kami, na-inspire kami. Parang ‘yung captain namin nagtatrabaho ng maayos, captain namin todo-todo ‘yung pinapakita sa laro, sa pag-rebound, defense, sa pag-three points,” he explained.
“So para sa akin, nakakahiya na lang ‘pag hindi kami maglaro ng maganda.”
It was not just the veterans who led FEU this far, though. Some of the young guns like Xyrus Torres and L-Jay Gonzales also showed what they are all about, as they demonstrated that the future of the Tamaraws is bright.
“Siyempre, sila ‘yung mga standouts nung high school sa FEU Baby Tamaraws, so para sa amin, big factor ‘yung mga ano nila, lalong-lalo na on defense. Pesky defenders sila tapos siyempre, ang lalakas din ng loob nila as a rookie,” he said.
“So dun ako bilib sa mga rookies namin.”
For now, though, Comboy and the rest of the FEU community can rest easy since the Tamaraws are already in the Final Four. But the focus for the next big challenge starts now.
“Just one game at a time lang. ‘Yun lagi sinasabi ng coaches namin. Dadating naman ‘yung resulta sa end. Let’s focus play-by-play, so ‘yun lang ang mga sinasabi sa amin and be disciplined.”