After dropping three straight games, the FEU Tamaraws needed to find a glimmer of confidence, a morale-boosting win before the Final Four begins.
Behind Ino Comboy and Axel Iñigo, the Far Eastern University Tamaraws rallied back against the University of the East Red Warriors, 64-61, to keep their slim hope of taking second seed, Wednesday afternoon at the SM Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City.
The Tamaraws finish the elimination round with a 9-5 slate and are hoping that the Adamson University Soaring Falcons defeat the Ateneo de Manila University Blue Eagles by at least 31 points to still have a crack at second seed. The Red Warriors, on the other hand, finish their season with a 3-11 record, good for seventh place.
“We just wanted to get a win before we go to the playoffs. It was a struggle,” said FEU head coach Nas Racela. “It was really hard mentally for the players. At least gumaganda na yung quotient namin.”
Iñigo paced the Tamaraws with 16 points on an excellent 6-of-7 clip, 3-of-4 from distance. Comboy scored eight of his 10 points in the final frame.
“The challenge for them is to be consistent. At least two consecutive games. That’s a welcome development,” Racela remarked about his players.
Down by nine points entering the final frame, Comboy sparked FEU’s comeback. Costly turnovers by Paul Varilla led to baskets for the sophomore, capped by a pull-up jumper with 1:36 remaining to tie the game at 59-all.
A lucky loose ball landed squarely on the hands of Raymar Jose, leading to a split on the stripe by Comboy. After missing the second free throw, the Tamaraws had another break, as Varilla was called for an out-of-bounds play.
A miss by Jojo Trinidad from downtown led to a rebound for Jose. The King Tamaraw then found Iñigo, who drained a cold-blooded triple in front of the outstretched arms of Rey Acuno to seal the comeback with 25 ticks left.
“Masaya kasi galing kami sa tatlong talo e. Gustong gusto ko talaga manalo ngayon,” Iñigo said. “Sabi nga ni coahc gusto niya kami maging consistent sa bawat game. Pinakita namin na kaya namin maging consistent.”
FEU were down by as much as 11 points, 22-11, early in the second frame. Behind Richard Escoto’s seven second quarter points, the Tamaraws were able to tie the game during the quarter.
The Tamaraws shot just 34 percent from the field compared to 35 percent for the Red Warriors. However, FEU went to the stripe 30 times, knocking down 19, compared to just 11 attempts for their opponents.
Varilla posted 13 points and five rebounds in his final UAAP game. Fellow graduating player Renz Palma added eight markers. Ace recruit Alvin Pasaol was limited to just two points on 1-of-11 shooting.
FEU (64) – Inigo 16, Escoto 11, Jose 11, Comboy 10, Orizu 8, Holmqvist 4, Bayquin 3, Tuffin 1, Arong 0, Bienes 0, Dennison 0, Nunag 0, Trinidad 0.
UE (61) – Varilla 13, Acuno 8, Manalang 8, Palma 8, Bartolome 7, Batiller 6, Olayon 5, Abanto 2, Armenio 2, Pasaol 2, Charcos 0, Gagate 0.
Quarterscores: 11-20, 34-34, 44-53, 64-61