With three games left on their slate, the Far Eastern University Tamaraws were lagging behind the De La Salle University Green Archers and the University of the Philippines Fighting Maroons for the last two slots in the Final Four.
The once-league leaders were then holding a 5-6 record. The Green Archers and the Fighting Maroons sported a 7-4 and 5-6 record, respectively.
After a nightmare stretch that saw Prince Orizu go down with an injury and Arvin Tolentino slapped with a two-game suspension, Lady Luck eventually sided with the Tamaraws.
“We’re finally getting the breaks dito sa second round,” expressed second-year Tamaraws head coach Olsen Racela.
UP went on to win their last three games to seal the third seed – the last at the expense of La Salle. On the other hand, La Salle lost two of their last three games to fall to 8-6.
FEU, who won their last two games, needed to win their final game to force a playoff for the last spot. And they were lucky enough to face the Adamson Soaring Falcons without Jerrick Ahanmisi and Sean Manganti. FEU took an 82-56 win to keep their semis hopes alive.
“Malaking bagay itong game na ito of course. with them missing – Ahanmisi and Manganti. Malaking bagay iyon. But ayun, kagaya ng sinabi niyo, we have one game to play, to make it to the Final Four. And we’re thankful to take advantage of that,” shared Racela.
“If we took care of business early on, dapat nasa mas magandang position kami. But like I said, ‘Finally getting the breaks!’ ‘Yung mga injuries, hindi naman maiiwasan iyon. ‘Yung kay Prince and the time it happened, very crucial games sa mga teams na kadikit namin, ‘di namin maiiwasan iyon,” the product of Ateneo added.
“Pero right now, we have an opportunity, and we have one more game. At nabigyan kami ng biyaya so dapat lubusin namin.”
And the Tamaraws are not planning to waste this opportunity.
“Iyon na. After tapos na ‘yung second round, playoff against La Salle on Wednesday. ‘Yung focus namin ishi-shift na namin,” said Arvin Tolentino. “Tomorrow starts ‘yung preparation namin sa Wednesday. ‘Di iyon magiging madali like ‘yung game namin today. For sure.
“And we just have to give our 110 percent sa practice para makapag-perform ng maayos sa Wednesday.”
“Same as kay Arvin. Bukas mag-start na preparation namin,” added Hubert Cani.
“Bale wala rin panalo namin ngayon kung parang ‘di namin gagawin namin ‘yung best namin sa Wednesday against La Salle.”
“Sa akin naman, tapos na ‘yung first and second round of eliminations, wala na kami magagawa sa mga nakalipas so ‘yung last attempt nalang ‘yung kailangan namin i-focus, so iyon. Maganda preparation namin, sabi nila for Wednesday’s game,” closed Ino Comboy.