FEU nails first Final Four berth, holds off UE
Far Eastern University secured the first Final Four spot after fending off University of the East, 71-67, in the UAAP Season 78 men’s basketball tournament Saturday night at Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Mac Belo scored 11 of his game-high 16 points in the second half while Roger Pogoy added 12 points, including a big 3-pointer that gave the Tamaraws a 69-65 cushion with 1:32 remaining.
“Scary. It’s really like that when you play a team like UE,” said FEU head coach Nash Racela. “They never give up when they play and no matter what the situation is they play the same way. It’s a good thing that we made the necessary stops in the endgame I think that was the key to the victory.”
“To tell you honestly, it’s not in our minds,” Nash said of his team’s Final Four achievement. “We know that [if we win] we’re going to get into the Final Four so why bother thinking about it.”
For a moment, it seemed like FEU will have to wait a little more to get to the Final Four with UE taking the upper hand for much of the first half and a 65-62 edge with a little over five minutes left.
But the Tamaraws defense, anchored by Belo and Prince Orizu, held the Red Warriors scoreless in the next four minutes.
A basket by Russel Escoto gave FEU the lead for good, 66-65, with 4:07 left and free throws by Achie Iñigo sealed the the Tams’ eighth victory in the row with 3.9 ticks to go.
Mike Tolomia twisted his left ankle with a minute left in the third quarter and did not return. The starting guard missed all of his 11 attempts from the field but had nine rebounds and five assists.
Racela said Tolomia sprained his ankle but added Tolomia had the clearance to return but he opted not to field him in as a precautionary measure.
FEU rose to 9-1 and gained a full-game lead over second-running University of Santo Tomas, which missed out on its shot to make the semifinals after losing to Ateneo last Wednesday.
Von Batiller paced the Red Warriors, who are still in semis contention with a 3-7 mark, with 13 points on 6-of-15 shooting.
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