Far Eastern University (FEU) came alive in the second half as it toppled Adamson University, 71-54, clinching the last Final Four berth in the University Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP) Season 80 men’s basketball tournament on Saturday at the Araneta Coliseum.
The Tamaraws pulled away from a tight battle in the last 20 minutes and even led by as much as 15 points late in the game as they completed the semifinals cast with a 7-7 win-loss record.
“We’re happy. I have to hand it to our players. They never gave up. They never wavered in their desire to get into the Final Four,” said FEU head coach Olsen Racela.
With the win, the Morayta-based cagers avoided a do-or-die match for the final playoff berth against University of the Philippines (UP), which routed National University (NU), 106-81, earlier in the opening game.
“I told them (players) to narrow their focus and not to think about the game happening earlier and even the Final Four. I told them to think about what we have to do to win this game and they did that,” said Racela.
Arvin Tolentino finished with a team-high 14 points while Richard Escoto and Prince Orizu chipped in 11 and 10 markers, respectively, while combining for 20 rebounds for the Tamaraws, who booked their fifth straight semifinals appearance.
Rob Manalang contributed 15 points while Papi Sarr had 10 markers and seven rebounds for the third seed Soaring Falcons, who dropped to 9-5 heading into the playoffs.
Ahead by only three points at the half, 35-32, the Tamaraws launched an 11-2 run capped by Escoto’s layup to post a 52-40 lead late in the third period.
Orizu notched eight points, highlighted by two completed three-point plays, in the final frame to take charge of a closing 10-2 rally.
Earlier, UP banked on a balanced attack as it edged out NU, closing its campaign on a bright note but missing another semifinals in 20 years.
Five Fighting Maroons registered double-digit scoring as they finished with a 6-8 slate, a notch higher than their 5-9 card last season.
Paul Desiderio led UP’s onslaught as the top gunner exploded with a career-high tying 30 points while Juan Gomez De Liaño and his older brother Javi also tallied their career-best productions of 22 and 17 markers respectively.
Rounding up the Maroons in double figures were Jun Manzo, who scored 14 points, and Ibrahim Ouattara, who added 12 markers.
Issa Gaye led the Bulldogs with a double-double of 25 points and 10 rebounds while graduating guard Jayjay Alejandro contributed 16 markers.
NU bowed out of contention with a 5-9 record, leading to another Final Four absence for the second straight season.
UP (106)– Desiderio 30, Gomez de Liano Ju 22, Gomez de Liano Ja 17, Manzo 14, Ouattara 12, Webb 3, Lim 2, Harris 2, Ricafort 2, Romero 2, Prado 0, Jaboneta 0.
NU (81)– Gaye 25, Alejandro 16, Joson 7, Salem 7, Tibayan 7, Mosqueda 4, Bartlett 4, Diputado 3, Cauilan 3, Aquino 3, Morido 2, Yu 0, Abatayo 0, Lastimosa 0, Flores 0, Rangel 0.
Quarterscores: 34-21; 58-45; 84-60; 106-81
FEU (71)– Tolentino 14, Escoto 11, Orizu 10, Parker 9, Comboy 9, Inigo 7, Cani 5, Trinidad 2, Eboña 2, Bayquin 2, Dennison 0, Tuffin 0.
ADAMSON (54)– Manalang 15, Sarr 10, Camacho 7, Lojera 4, Ochea 4, Bernardo 4, Espeleta 3, Pingoy 3, Hill 2, Ahanmisi 2, Paranada 0, Manganti 0, Zaldivar 0.
Quarterscores: 19-17; 35-32; 52-44; 71-54