Far Eastern University (FEU) tamed University of Santo Tomas (UST), 75-64, to take the series opener on Wednesday in the University Athletic Association of the Philippines Season 78 men’s basketball tournament finals at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City.
Veterans Roger Pogoy, Mike Tolomia and Mac Belo powered the Tamaraws to a 1-0 lead in the best-of-three championship showdown. Pogoy scored all his 15 points in the first half but Tolomia and Belo took over in the crucial minutes and finished with 14 and 13 points, respectively.
Belo also had 13 rebounds while Russel Escoto and Prince Orizu contributed a combined 22-point output.
“[We won] because of our defense. We have consecutive lapses that gave them momentum at the start then we did things correctly nakakuha kami ng tiyempo. This team has been an underrated defensive team, these boys really worked hard par depensa ang pag-uusapan and I think it showed today,” said FEU head coach Nash Racela.
The Tamaraws dominated the shaded area, hauling down 56 rebounds compared to the Growling Tigers’ 32. They also got 38 points from their bench players.
FEU actually survived 22 turnovers where UST was able to converted 18 points from that errors.
Only UST players were able to finish in double digits – 19 from Cameroonian Karim Abdul and 15 from Kevin Ferrer as fellow veteran Ed Daquioag was limited to just four points and five boards in 29 minutes of action.
“We expect them to come back strong [in Game 2]. I think we’ve learned our lessons from last year’s finals. We were up one game but we lost the series. We’re hoping that it’s a good reminder for us. We just need to be humble and continue to work and correct things so that we’ll get another win. That’s the objective. We got one win, the series is not yet over we need another one,” added Racela.
The Game 2 is set on Saturday at 3:30 p.m. at the Araneta Coliseum with the Tamaraws gunning to sweep the series to claim their 20th crown in the league.
In the women’s division, a resilient Ateneo de Manila University side won a fourth straight do-or-die game, escaping with a 55-53 squeaker over second seed De La Salle University in the stepladder semifinals.
Danica Jose could only muster six points, but her free throw in the final 5.2 seconds was enough for the Lady Eagles to extend their season. She also grabbed 19 rebounds despite playing in pain.
The rubber match is slated at 10 a.m. on Saturday at the Araneta Coliseum, with the winner facing defending champion National University in the finals.
The Lady Bulldogs jumped straight to the Finals after completing a 14-game elimination round sweep.
Before pulling through against the Lady Archers, the fourth-ranked Lady Eagles staved off elimination by beating Adamson University in the final day of the second round, University of Santo Tomas in the playoff for the last semis berth and the Lady Warriors in last Saturday’s first stepladder.