No rhythm? No mercy. An uncharacteristically out-of-sync FEU Tamaraw team shrugged off an early push by the AdU Soaring Falcons, condemning the Falcons to a winless first round. While most of his team struggled to gain traction, FEU star gunner Mike Tolomia sank the plucky Falcons with an absurdly efficient 21 points (64% FG) in only 21 minutes. As is usual for AdU, their futile efforts were bannered by the duo of Celedonio Trollano and Jansen Rios, who scored 17 points and 16 points, respectively. Rios also posted a near double-double, snagging 9 rebounds for his defeated squad. The 5-2 Tamaraws maintain their spot near the congested top of the standings, while the 0-7 cellar-dwelling Falcons dearly hope their fortunes reverse in the second round.
Rallying behind interim Head Coach Vince Hizon, the Soaring Falcons swooped down on a lackadaisical FEU defence to start the match. With Head Coach Kenneth Duremdes attending to a family emergency, Adamson’s Celedonio Trollano pumped in 9 points in the quarter to give AdU a 17-13 lead with 3:30 to go in the first. The score-line sparked the lethargic FEU line-up into action, and the rest of the first period would go the Tamaraws’ way. Mike Tolomia poured 11 of his points in the opening stanza, and his production would give the Tamaraws a 24-17 advantage heading into the second.
The Tamaraws’ energy would evaporate again in the second, as the UAAP’s most efficient offense would suddenly labour for points. Sadly for the beleaguered Falcons fans, the least efficient offense in the UAAP, Adamson, matched them miss for miss, turnover for turnover. The two teams combined for an abysmal 20% shooting quarter, along with 15 turnovers between them. As the half-time buzzer sounded with FEU up 34-26, the exasperated fans, and coaching staff, could only pray the second half would produce more quality.
The half-time break proved a panacea for both teams, as stars on both sides regained their shooting touch. The Falcons’ Trollano and running mate Jansen Rios would erupt for a combined 13 points in the quarter, cutting FEU’s cushion to 5 points, 40-35. Their efforts were wasted though, as Mike Tolomia would replicate his first quarter form, burning the Falcons’ defence for 10 points on a perfect 3/3 from the field and 3/3 from the charity stripe. FEU’s ever-efficient Mac Belo and burly guard Roger Pogoy chipped in 4 points apiece as well, giving the Tamaraws what looked to be a comfortable 58-43 lead at the end of the third.
FEU Head Coach Nash Racela had no time to relax though, as his wards were pressed relentlessly by the never-say-die Soaring Falcons. Jansen Rios poured in 7 4th quarter points in a valiant effort to steal a first victory for the Falcons. With the red-hot Tolomia sitting out the entirety of the fourth, FEU was again unable to score consistently. The Tamaraws’ Anthony Hargrove, Mac Belo and Roger Pogoy would do just enough to keep FEU ahead. With the game decided, 70-60, with only 0.6s to go, Falcon reserve Chris Garcia uselessly fouled FEU backup point guard Jason David. The irate David immediately flung the basketball at Garcia’s head, forcing the refs to call an unsportsmanlike foul and delay the inevitable. 4 free throws later, the final score read 71-62, in favour of FEU.