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Racela, Tamaraws: Sacrifice above all

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It was a historic night for the Far Eastern University Tamaraws, as they finally ended a 10-year title drought after out-gunning the University of Santo Tomas Growling Tigers in a 67-62 win earlier at the Mall of Asia Arena.

Finals MVP Mac Belo led the charge with 23 points and 8 rebounds, while Roger Pogoy followed up with 14 markers, 6 rebounds, and an assist. In addition, Mike Tolomia had 13 points, two boards, and three assists.

“Masaya siyempre. Even we were down, the players kept on fighting and believed that we could pull through,” FEU head coach Nash Racela told reporters when asked about winning his first-ever title with FEU. “Again, as a coach, you’ll be proud of your players. Noong natapos natuwa ako and I had to share some emotions pa.”

All season long, one of the key ingredients for this well-oiled FEU team had been their great display of teamwork and selflessness.

Gone are the days where they would rely too much on the individual talents of their players, which often led to attempts to make more difficult shots. In their championship season, the Tamaraws’ dribble-drive motion offense was thing of beauty when executed to perfection, since it promoted five players working as one unit.

“I think my players, my team, OUR team has been really good a basketball team. I’m really proud of them because they represented the school well,” Racela said. “They sacrificed [kasi] sometimes nangigil sila but they kept their composure and I think people are noticing. It says a lot of the character of the players.”

Depth has been one of FEU’s greatest assets this season, and it was greatly utilized as their star players bought into a more team-first approach, beginning with the Filoil Flying V Preseason Tournament.

Philippine Sports News - Tiebreaker Times Racela, Tamaraws: Sacrifice above all    Normally, the likes of Mike Tolomia and Mac Belo would often find themselves on the bench instead of starting games. That ploy paid dividends for FEU, since it gave their fringe players the confidence they sorely needed, and also gave the team’s seniors a bigger shot at climbing up high in the pro ranks.

“Again, it says a lot about the players. Putting their team ahead of themselves is really hard especially that they have a goal of making it to the PBA,” Racela remarked about FEU’s commitment to a team-first approach. “We talked about this since last year and if they really want to make it to the PBA, kailangan magchampion kayo.”

A further testament to FEU’s mantra of teamwork is the absence of any individual award this season. For them, all that mattered was raising the championship trophy with their head up high.

“They sacrificed [their individual performances for the season] and then [come the time] sa [individual] awarding, it says a lot about this team – we didn’t get any individual award because our players sacrificed [for the betterment of the team],” Racela commented. “This is the common goal that we have and now we get rewarded.”

Philippine Sports News - Tiebreaker Times Racela, Tamaraws: Sacrifice above all    Racela indicated that this title is more a breakthrough moment than a redemption story for FEU. It has been a decade since they last won a title, but it also proved that Racela’s approach can lead a team to a championship. They had their fair share of smiles and heartbreaks, but this title just made things sweeter for the FEU faithful.

“Somebody said it’s redemption but for me, it’s a breakthrough sa basketball program ng FEU. Again, a lot of people are doubting FEU and a lot of people are saying negative things about FEU. Every year they say that sa mga players namin,” Racela remarked. “I think it just showed na today it’s not true. So kung ano man ang iniisip nila sa FEU it’s not true. I think my players, my team, OUR team has been really good a basketball team.”

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