Far Eastern University (FEU) head coach Nash Racela got the most memorable gift for his 44th birthday—a championship crown in the University Athletic Association of the Philippines Season 78 men’s basketball tournament.
“Yung mga players nung binati nila ako sabi nila sa Wednesday na lang ‘yung gift mo coach. That’s something that they guaranteed and I’m happy that they delivered. I’m really thankful. This is a good gift from my players,” narrated Racela, who celebrated his birthday last Monday.
FEU survived University of Santo Tomas (UST) in a thrilling best-of-three championship series via a 2-1 decision. The Tamaraws won in Game 1 75-64) then the Growling Tigers tied the series with a 62-56 victory in Game 2 before FEU wrapped it up in Game 3 through a nerve-wracking 67-62 win.
Racela hailed his team especially graduating players Mac Belo, Roger Pogoy and Mike Tolomia, whom he tagged as “ready for PBA (Philippine Basketball Association).”
“Marami kaming isinakripisyo bago namin makuha ito. Ilan dito pwedeng maging Most Valuable Player kung gugustuhin nila. Pero hindi yun ang ginawa namin dahil isang team kami dito, isang pamilya,” Racela stressed.
The Tamaraws embraced the “never-say-die” attitude in the series to reclaim the title they last won in 2005.
“Hindi talaga kami sumuko dahil last year na namin ito kaya talagang ibinigay na namin ang lahat. Malaking tulong ‘yung teamwork namin. Maganda ang samahan namin sa loob at labas ng court,” said Roger Pogoy, who made crucial baskets including a booming triple in the fourth period.
Belo also refused to give up despite nursing leg cramps early in the third quarter and the latter part of the fourth frame.
“Hindi ko na inisip ‘yun [cramps]dahil alam kong kailangan ako ng team kaya laban lang kami,” said Belo, who averaged 17.3 points, 10.7 rebounds and a block in the series to pocket the Finals Most Valuable Player.