MANILA, Philippines – Better late than never.
This is what perhaps best describes the FEU Tamaraws who defeated the no. 2 team Adamson Falcons, 78-74, to gain the right to challenge the powerhouse Ateneo Blue Eagles for the UAAP Season 74 Men’s Basketball crown.
With close to 15,000 spectators trooping to the Smart-Araneta Coliseum to watch the do-or-die playoff game, the Tamaraws got a big lift from a forgotten rookie named Cris Tolomia. Tolomia led the Tams with 19 points, 7 rebounds and 4 assists to help FEU clinch a rematch with the favored Blue Eagles starting this Saturday.
The loss was a bitter pill to swallow for the Falcons, one of the best performances that the team has shown in the UAAP thus far. Needing only to win once, the usual stars were nowhere to be found in the crucial stretches, led no less by Lester Alvarez who was also a non-factor in game 1.
And FEU was able to do it despite a so-so performance from UAAP Season 73 MVP RR Garcia who managed to scatter only 11 points. However, Tolomia got the ample support from Terrence Romeo who made 15 markers.
The win somehow put the Tamaraws into a position which many believed where they should be prior to the start of this year’s UAAP season. With the remarkable Garcia back together with former Smart Gilas stalwart Aldrech Ramos leading the way, FEU had been favored to make the UAAP finals alongside the mighty Ateneo Blue Eagles.
But now, FEU coach Bert Flores face a dubious task of defeating Ateneo, a team that they have not beaten in both meetings in the elimination round. Ateneo demolished FEU last Augsut 7 (69-49) and repeated their mastery over the Tams on August 13 with a 74-67 overtime victory.
Coach Flores is bound to be reviewing the game tapes with the boys to help stave off another title for the Blue Eagles, a fourth consecutive one that looks highly academic.
The Morayta-based cagers will have their hands full as well. With rookie phenom Kiefer Ravena at the helm, they also have to deal with man-mountain Greg Slaughter, Nico Salva, Kirk Long and Eman Monfort among others to get the job done.
The feat seems like a tough mountain to conquer but in basketball, the ball is round and anything is possible with some luck of course.