Forward Mac Belo saved Far Eastern University (FEU) by firing a buzzer-beating, game-winning shot that earned the Tamaraws a 76-74 win over Ateneo De Manila University in the University Athletic Association of the Philippines Season 78 men’s basketball tournament at the Araneta Coliseum on Saturday.
Belo, who finished with 15 points and nine rebounds, sent No. 2 twice-to-beat holder FEU to a back-to-back finals appearance.
“I just found an opening after Mike’s [Tolomia] lay-up. I’m very happy because we’re back in the finals,” said Belo, who was also remembered last season for his winning three-point shot against De La Salle University that sent the Tams in the championship round.
Belo contributed 13 points while Archie Alejandrino had nine points also for FEU.
“There is no pressure at all because we prepared very hard in this game,” said FEU coach Nash Racela during the post-game interview. “My players know how to deal with the pressure. It was a total team effort that’s why we are here in the finals.”
FEU opened the game on a high note by outscoring Ateneo in the first period 19-12 through the prowess of Tolomia, Pogoy and Inigo.
Though struggling, the Blue Eagles regrouped in the second quarter with Ravena and Pessumal connecting their shots narrowing the gap to 32-38 at the halftime break.
The Tamaraws sustained their impressive performance at the start of second half beefing up their lead to nine points. They ended the third quarter still leading, 56-50, through solid defense.
But the Blue Eagles initiated a 9-4 run in the fourth quarter highlighted by Kiefer Ravena’s three-point shot grabbing the lead 74-71 just before the last two-minute mark. Ravena scored 25 points to lead Ateneo.
But Roger Pogoy, who led FEU with 16 points, brought the score to 74-all after connecting a three-point basket with 1:07 left.
The Blue Eagles, hampered by the Tamaraws’ strong defense in the last period, failed to convert their next two possessions.
Meanwhile, No. 1 twice-to-beat holder University of Santo Tomas (UST) will try to follow FEU in the best-of-three championship round when it clashes against No. 4 National University in the other Final Four match.
UST, which ended the elimination round with an 11-3 win-loss record, is expected to bank on forward Kevin Ferrer, Karim Abdul, Louie Vigil, Ed Daquioag and Marvin Lee.
The defending champion Bulldogs, with a 7-7 win-loss record, are expected to bank on the talents of Gelo Alolino and Alfred Aroga.