NU ends 11-year Final Four drought after edging FEUBy Mark Giongco
MANILA, Philippines—With its season on the line, National University mounted an end-game rally to nip Far Eastern University in overtime, 84-81, Sunday and clinch its first Final Four appearance since 2001 in the UAAP Season 75 men’s basketball tournament at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Reigning MVP Ray Parks atoned for his costly mistake in the fourth quarter by being accountable to the Bulldogs, who will enter the Final Four as the number three seed, last eight points in extra session.
“I told them, let’s not waste the opportunity. Honestly, I did not expect this game to be replayed,” said NU head coach Eric Altamirano, whose team faces No. 2 University of Santo Tomas, a team that swept them in the elimination round.
“This win is very significant to the NU community. This is where we want to be from the start of the season,” said Altamirano.
Parks had a sub-par fourth period, going scoreless and committing a turnover that led to Mike Tolomia’s drive that forged overtime with both teams knotted at 73.
But that somehow set up his clutch performance.
The six-foot-four forward drained a three that capped a 9-0 NU run as the Bulldogs took an 82-79 cushion with 31.4 ticks left before calmly sinking two free throws with 16.7 seconds remaining.
“It’s huge not just for us but for the school. It’s all about pride right now,” said Parks, who finished with 27 points, nine rebounds and three assists.
Russell Escoto badly missed on a three-pointer that would’ve tied it at 84.
The Tamaraws, who once sat in first place, are now in a precarious situation as they go into a knockout game against De La Salle on Wednesday with the victor earning the last semifinals slot.
“I can’t say enough about my players, their efforts were there and so was their intensity,” said FEU head coach Bert Flores in Filipino. “We’re still positive.”
FEU and La Salle each won over the other in the elimination round.
NU’s season appeared to be slipping away as FEU came out strong in overtime and led, 79-73, after a basket by Tolomia with 2:51 remaining.
Chiseled center Emmanuel Mbe scored inside and split his charities, which trimmed the Tamaraws’ lead.
Mbe added 25 points and 13 rebounds while Gelo Alolino chipped in seven points and had nine of his team’s 23 assists.
The Bulldogs, who squandered a 68-59 lead they built in the fourth quarter, made crucial stops after that before a right corner three by De Guzman tied it at 79 at the 1:05 mark.
Terrence Romeo paced the Tams with 25 points and eight rebounds while RR Garcia had 13 markers and nine boards.
Originally posted at 07:05 pm | September 23, 2012