UAAP: FEU storms back, eliminates La Salle from Final Four race
Far Eastern University came back in the fourth quarter behind Roger Pogoy and its bench to boot La Salle out of Final Four contention, 71-68, in the UAAP Season 78 men’s basketball tournament at Smart Araneta Coliseum.
With their sights already set on their semifinals showdown with the Ateneo Blue Eagles, the Tamaraws gave their key players limited playing time and let their second and third stringers get exposure.
“Going into the game the objective was to keep our players fresh,” said FEU head coach Nash Racela. “We also made it clear at the half that even with those objectives, we are still going for the win.”
Winning the game didn’t even appear to be within reach for FEU with La Salle, which needed the all-important victory to forge a playoff with National University for the last semifinals spot, leading by as much as 15.
But even with its top two stars Mac Belo and Mike Tolomia playing for only three quarters and seeing not more than 14 minutes of action, FEU completed its comeback from 12 points down, 57-45, with only 7:40 remaining.
Pogoy scored all of his 11 points in the final 4:34 with his last basket putting FEU ahead, 63-61, with 2:40 to go.
Monbert Arong capped the 20-4 run with a drive for a 65-61 Tamaraws lead with 2:03 left.
“The chance to win presented itself and we went for it,” Racela said.
Joining Arong and Pogoy on the floor during the crucial stretch were Jojo Trinidad and the Holmqvist brothers Steve and Ken.
“That’s also the objective, to prepare the other players in the Final Four. You’ll never know when they would be needed,” Racela said of his bench players. “They stepped forward and they were ready.”
Jeron Teng scored a game-high 20 points including a three-point play that cut FEU’s lead to one, 67-66, with 1:22 to go before Arong made two freebies and Trinidad came free for a breakaway layup in the last 12.8 seconds to deal another heartbreak to La Salle.
Last season, FEU knocked off La Salle in the Final Four on a buzzer-beating triple by Belo.
The Final Four starts on Saturday with No.2 FEU taking on Ateneo while the other semis matchup between top seed University of Santo Tomas and NU begins on Sunday. Both games will be played at the Big Dome.
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