The Bulldogs were able to tie the series in Game Two and, with all the wave of momentum on their side, eventually blew the Tamaraws out of the water in front of a record-breaking crowd in Game Three.
For Smart Elite ambassador Mac Belo, the pain of going up 1-0 and succumbing to the pressure of capturing the championship is still fresh. “Siyempre. Noong umpisa pa lang ng season yun na ang motivation namin. Sabi namin, ‘we are going to bounce back this year,'” Belo told Tiebreaker Times. “Pero ang focus pa rin namin di nawawala. Game by game kumbaga.”
During the off-season, FEU head coach Nash Racela gathered his troops and moved them from the busy streets of Morayta to the serene surroundings of FEU’s Diliman Campus. From there, he instilled great discipline to his players that eventually led to amazing chemistry among them both in and off the court.
The result? Arguably the best team in the collegiate ranks today. The Tamaraws are a sight to behold as seniors Mike Tolomia, Roger Pogoy, Achie Inigo, and Belo, together with their freshmen and sophomore teammates, produced beautiful symphony on the court in displaying beautiful ball movement on offense and suffocating defense on the other end.
Exactly 409 days after, the veteran-laden Tamaraws find themselves in the same predicament.
After exorcising the demon of not being able to outlast the University of Santo Tomas Growling Tigers in the regular season, the Morayta-based squad finally bested their neighbors to take Game One of the UAAP Season 78 Men’s Basketball Finals. However, going into Game Two, they need to exorcise one last demon: how to close-out a series.
Belo reflected on what happened in saying, “Nandoon pa rin. Especially this year, nanalo ulit ng first game,” Belo said. “Last year ganoon din. Nandoon pa rin, nandoon pa rin.”
Game One was not the perfect game for the Tamaraws as UST’s pressing defense to start the fourth quarter allowed the Espana cagers to tie the game at 56-all in a 22-second 6-0 burst. Belo disclosed that they need to work on their press-breaks before Game Two. ““Yun sa execution namin. Nung nag trap sila parang na-surprise kami.”
“Good thing naman na naka-adujust kami pero kelangan namin balikan kung paano namin i-break yung press,” he added.
Looking forward, Belo, who had a huge double-double with 13 points and 13 boards in Game One, said that they should go into Game Two with a “Now or Never” mindset. ““Yung championship talaga e. Especially sa aming mga seniors, karamihan sa amin five years nandito sa FEU. Last chance na namin ito,” he furthered.
“Now or never na ito. Gusto namin maibalik ang binigay sa amin ng FEU.”
Exactly 416 days since Game Two of the UAAP Season 77 Finals, can Belo and the Tamaraws close-out a series and finally end the ten-year championship drought of the Tamaraws?
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