Far Eastern University (FEU) rode on an explosive second half to hack out an 80-67 rout against Ateneo De Manila University and force a deciding game for the last finals berth in the University Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP) Season 80 men’s basketball on Sunday at the Araneta Coliseum.
The Tamaraws broke away from a close game in the first half, outgunning the top- seeded Blue Eagles in the last 20 minutes, 42-32, to put the Final Four series in a do-or-die match on Wednesday.
“I told them to start strong, sustain the momentum and finish stronger. I think we did that in today’s game,” said Far Eastern U head coach Olsen Racela.
The victory was reminiscent of last season’s Final Four faceoff between the two squads, wherein FEU also forced a winner-take-all game.
“What we achieved today was to erase the twice-to-beat advantage of Ateneo. We’re looking forward to Wednesday’s game and see what we can do to stop a very strong team like Ateneo,” said the rookie mentor.
Ron Dennison paced the Tamaraws with 17 points on an efficient 7-of-13 shooting clip on top of eight rebounds and three assists while Arvin Tolentino chipped in 13 markers, pouring nine of those in the first half.
Hubert Cani and Prince Orizu added 11 and 10 points, respectively, for the Morayta-based squad.
Thirdy Ravena led the Eagles with 17 points and six rebounds, Mike Nieto scored 13 markers and Matt Nieto had 11 points.
It was a tight battle in the early goings but Axel Iñigo buried back-to-back triples to end the opening period with the Tamaraws enjoying a 21-15 cushion.
FEU managed to keep a slim 38-35 advantage at the half despite Ateneo’s four three-pointers to open the second quarter.
The Tamaraws’ lead suddenly ballooned to 14 points, 56-42, as they went on a blistering 18-7 run capped by (Richard) Escoto’s acrobatic layup late in the third frame.
Allowing no letup, FEU continued to dominate in the payoff period and even posted its largest lead at 75-58 on Cani’s shot clock buzzer-beating trey from way out.
That proved to be the nail on the coffin as the host school proceeded to force a rubber match.
FEU (80)– Dennison 17, Tolentino 13, Cani 11, Orizu 10, Escoto 9, Iñigo 8, Trinidad 5, Parker 4, Eboña 3, Comboy 0, Bayquin 0, Ramirez 0, Stockton 0, Tuffin 0.
ATENEO (67)– Ravena 17, Nieto Mi 13, Nieto Ma 11, Go 9, Tolentino 5, Mendoza 4, Asistio 3, Tio 3, Verano 2, Ikeh 0, Black 0, Mamuyac 0, Mallillin 0.
Quarterscores: 21-15; 38-35; 59-48; 80-67