The underrated defense of the Tamaraws was greatly on display once more.
In the first instalment of Sunday’s heavyweight UAAP doubleheader, the Far Eastern University Tamaraws opened their second round on a good note by defeating the Ateneo de Manila University Blue Eagles in a close 66-61 on Sunday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
A tightly-contested match was showcased for the entire 40 minutes that was started with back-and-forth exchange by the two squads from the opening tip. An 18-11 lead by the Eagles was quickly erased by a 9-1 run by FEU courtesy of the entrance of Mike Tolomia and Mac Belo, who both came off the bench.
In the second quarter, it was the Tamaraws turn to make its run to install a 28-22 lead with Iñigo, Belo and Cruz making the baskets during the stretch. Ateneo responded with its rampage initiated by first year guard Adrian Wong, who put up 6 straight points. As FEU scored only two points in the final minutes of the half, Ateneo took a slim two point edge at the break, 32-30.
The Eagles executed plays to locate their snipers from the perimeter to open the second half as Von Pessumal and Adrian Wong knocking down two treys. On the other hand, FEU kept the game close by feeding the ball in the paint while Pogoy’s triple capped a quick 7-2 spurt midway in the third to tie the game again at 40.
The Tamaraws extended their run to recapture the lead as Mike Tolomia started to get involved in the offense as they silenced the Blue-and-white in the latter stretch of the third.
Fortunately for the Blue Eagles, their defense also stood tall in the tail-end of the quarter as scoring slowed down for both teams. Aaron Black scored on a big putback but Mike Tolomia responded with a tough three to tie the game at 47 after three quarters. Afterwards, FEU opened the fourth period with two booming jumpers from Al Francis Tamsi and Achi Iñigo.
Ateneo struggled finding their groove in the opening part of the last period as momentum slowly shifted towards the Tamaraws. However, Kiefer Ravena started to make his presence felt despite struggling in the first three quarters to make the match close scoring-wise. With 4:01 left in the game, Fonso Gotladera was assessed of a technical foul which also served to be his fifth foul that led to a free throw by Iñigo to make it a 57-54 game.
Ravena then made a fast break layup that was answered by five straight points by FEU capped by three huge free throws by Russell Escoto with 1:55 left. Ateneo was able to pull through within two points and with the Blue Eagles having possession, Belo, showing improved tenacity on defense, swatted away a Ravena attempt. Free throws by the Tamaraws helped seal the sixth straight win for the Tamaraws, 66-61.
“There’s still a lot to improve on especially on defense,” coach Nash Racela remarked about his team. “Today we did not achieve our goals.” The goal Racela was saying was to force their opponents in to turnovers. In this game, they were only able to force 13.
The third-year coach added that the team’s early struggle because of the fouls. “We struggled defensively. Lots of fouls in the first half. That’s why we struggled with our rotations.” These struggles though are part of the process according to him. “Struggles will help us improve. We welcome them.”
Smart Elite ambassador Mac Belo led the FEU Tamaraws with 12 points and five boards. But more importantly, he played big in the late stages in defending Kiefer Ravena, including a blocked shot. “I leardned this from Coach Juno,” Racela quipped. “He put Jeron on Kiefer kaya gagayahin ko na lang.”
Senior Russel Escoto added 10 points while RR Pogoy also had ten markers.
For the Blue Eagles, Smart Elite ambassador Kiefer Ravena topscored with 15 markers. However, he continues to struggle from the field in shooting just 33%. Moreover, he was a dismal 5/10 from the foul line. Filipino-American Adrian Wong complemented the effort in scoring a UAAP career-high 14 points
As a team, both team’s struggled heavily from the field with FEU shooting 35/48% from the field while Ateneo shot 33.87%. The Tamaraws though greatly outrebounded the Blue Eagles 51-38 that led to a 15-9 advantage in second chance points.
The FEU Tamaraws (7-1) will look to extend their winning streak as they face the UP Fighting Maroons (3-5) on Wednesday, October 14 at 2:00pm while the Ateneo Blue Eagles (4-4) look to snap their two-game funk against the Adamson Soaring Falcson (1-7) on Saturday, October 17 at 2:00pm.
FEU (66) – Belo 12, Ru. Escoto 10, Pogoy 10, Tolomia 8, Inigo 7, Tamsi 6, Dennison 4, Arong 3, Jose 2, Orizu 2, Trinidad 2, Escoto 0, Holmqvist K. 0.
ADMU (61) – Ravena 15, Wong 14, Pessumal 8, Gotladera 7, Ikeh 6, Black 6, Babilonia 3, A. Tolentino A. 2, Apacible 0, Cani 0, Capacio 0, Nieto Ma. 0, Tolentino V. 0.
Quarterscores: 19-19, 30-32, 47-47, 66-61.