Belo strikes again
With another buzzer-beater from a star player who seems to have a knack for last-second heroics, Far Eastern U shredded another team’s hopes, marched to the UAAP Finals and confronted a reality that comes with some heavy pressure.
The Tamaraws look every inch the championship favorite everybody said they were—but the weight of that tag isn’t as burdensome as people might think.
“There’s no pressure at all even if they’re saying we’re the strongest team here,” said Racela. “It’s a challenge for all of us.”
The Tamaraws broke the hearts of the Ateneo Blue Eagles this time, with Mac Belo playing hero yet again, nailing a put-back for a thrilling 76-74 escape Saturday at Smart Araneta Coliseum that propelled FEU to the men’s basketball Finals for the second straight season.
Belo barely beat the buzzer with his game-winner that cleaned up Mike Tolomia’s missed layup. Barely a year ago, Belo also knocked in a last-gasp triple that sent La Salle packing in last season’s Final Four.
And while the spotlight fell on the veteran forward, Racela dished out some of the credit to rest of the Tamaraws like Roger Pogoy, Mike Tolomia and their solid support crew.
“[Belo] was the only one who made the last shot, but it was a team effort,” said Racela. “There were so many who weren’t mentioned, guys like (Ron) Dennison who really defended, (Mobert) Arong and (Francis) Tamsi.”
FEU certainly has played the team card to the hilt, so much so that Belo faced criticisms over his dropping numbers this season.
“That’s what we wanted, that everyone contributes,” he said. “We’re also focused more on defense.”
The Blue Eagles looked all set to forge a knockout game with MVP Kiefer Ravena taking charge and Adrian Wong also banging in huge shots that gave them a 74-71 advantage going into the last two minutes.
But Pogoy set up Belo’s dagger by doing almost everything on both ends of the floor: He knocked in a triple that tied the game at 74 with 67 seconds left, stole the ball from Ravena and chased down Wong in a key defensive stop.
“Right now, we’re just happy to be back in the Finals,” said Racela as his Tamaraws go for the crown this time after settling for a runner-up finish last year.
“It was for us to win, we had the chance to win it,” said Ravena, who dropped a game-high 25 points to cap a stellar five-year collegiate career. “But it’s really for them. Everything happens for a reason.”
Pogoy paced the Tamaraws with 16 points and Belo finished with 15 markers and nine rebounds.
“Naiisip ko pa rin tira ni Mac (I still kept thinking about Mac’s shot),” Ravena said in jest.
Ateneo triumphed in women’s action as the Lady Eagles survived University of the East’s late rally, 65-62, to advance to the stepladder semifinals.
Danica Jose unloaded 17 points, the last two on clutch free throws with 5.3 seconds left, on top of eight rebounds and four assists. The Lady Eagles will take on next the second-ranked La Salle, which holds a twice-to-beat advantage.
Defending champion National U jumped straight to the Finals after a 14-0 sweep of the eliminations.
First Game (Women)
ATENEO 65—Jose 17, Yam 17, Guytingco 10, Tomita 10, Go 7, Buendia 2, Nitorreda 2, Aseron 0, Deacon 0. Javier 0, Lamar 0.
UE 62—Tacula 17, Sto. Domingo 16, Ano-os 11, Mendina 8, Chan 7, Taguiam 3, Francisco 0, Ramos 0, Sampaga 0.
Quarters: 21-16, 35-29, 53-50, 65-62
Second Game (Men)
FEU 76—Pogoy 16, Belo 15, Tolomia 13, Iñigo 9, Dennison 6, Jose 5, Arong 4, Escoto 4, Orizu 4, Tamsi 0.
ATENEO 74—Ravena 25, Wong 17, Pessumal 15, Gotladera 8, Ikeh 4, Nieto 2, Go 2, Capacio 1, Babilonia 0, Black 0, Pingoy 0, Tolentino A. 0, Tolentino V. 0.
Quarters: 19-12, 38-32, 56-50, 76-74
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