FEU nears Final 4 bonus; NU keeps own bid afloat
FAR EASTERN University doesn’t want to think too far ahead even if the Tamaraws have been playing like a shoo-in for the title round.
“It’s clear with the players that every game, we try to win regardless of the standings,” said FEU coach Nash Racela. “So we’ll try to continue to play the same way, and hopefully, build on it going to the playoffs.”
Imposing as always, the Tamaraws only need one more win to clinch a twice-to-beat advantage in the UAAP Final Four after downing Adamson, 82-69, to stay solo on top at 10-1 yesterday at Mall of Asia Arena.
But when the Tamaraws go for that crucial bonus, they face tough challengers in University of Santo Tomas, National University and La Salle in the final stretch of eliminations.
“It’s going to be a tough week,” said Racela. “Those are tough three teams.”
Defending champion NU, for one, needs all the wins it can get to keep its title bid going.
And Jay Alejandro delivered a stellar fourth-quarter outing as the Bulldogs nipped La Salle, 81-73, to stay in the Final Four hunt at 5-7.
“I needed to step up,” said Alejandro, who exploded for 17 points in the final period on the way to a game-high 25 markers. “My mindset was to help the team. I just found openings, I was at the right place at the right time.”
Just when the Archers looked all set to pull away, Alejandro took charge and even fired 14 straight points in one stretch that gave the Bulldogs a 65-58 cushion going into the last five minutes.
“I’m very proud of the boys, how they responded,” said NU coach Eric Altamirano after his Bulldogs moved just half a game behind the fourth-running Archers (5-6).
“I saw the resiliency of the boys. We were able to regroup and get back in the game.”
Earlier, the Tamaraws also held ground amid the Falcons’ early fourth-quarter rally. Even with Racela forgoing a timeout after the Falcons threatened within 68-64, the Tamaraws easily dropped 12 unanswered points to put the lead back up in double figures, 80-64.
“I held them responsible for the run of Adamson,” said Racela. “I waited for them to find a way. They were able to talk to each other.”
Russel Escoto fueled the Tamaraws’ strong start by firing nine of his 13 points in the first half, before Raymar Jose took charge in the fourth quarter, where he unloaded half of his 12 points.
FEU 82—Escoto Ru. 13, Jose 12, Pogoy 9, Tolomia 9, Arong 7, Iñigo 7, Orizu 7, Escoto Ri. 4, Holmqvist K. 2, Trinidad 2, Comboy 0, Dennison 0, Ebona 0, Holmqvist S. 0, Tamsi 0.
ADAMSON 69—Garcia J. 16, Nalos 15, Bernardo 10, Tungcab 10, Polican 6, Sarr 4, Villanueva 3, Capote 2, Ochea 2, Garcia C. 1, Camacho 0, Escalambre 0, Fernandez 0, Margallo 0.
Quarters: 23-18, 43-33, 66-50, 82-69
NU 81—Alejandro 25, Javelona 14, Alolino 7, Aroga 7, Neypes 7, Salim 6, Abatayo 4, Diputado 2, Morido 2.
LA SALLE 73—Teng 25, Caracut 18, Perkins 10, Torres 8, Rivero 5, Torralba 4, Navarro 3, Langston 0, Muyang 0, Tratter 0.
Quarters: 14-10, 32-30, 49-53, 81-73