Tams make it | Inquirer Sports

Tams make it

With big shots in the clutch, FEU ousts La Salle and sets up Final 4 duel with No. 1 Ateneo
/ 05:35 AM November 22, 2018

Far Eastern University beat La Salle’s Final Four hopes black and a little shade of blue.

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Led by a coach who still proudly traces his roots to Ateneo and on the heroics of a former Katipunan cager, the Tamaraws sealed a semifinal duel with the No. 1 Blue Eagles by ousting the defending champions’ fierce rivals.

Arvin Tolentino nailed a three-pointer in the final three seconds to cap a breathless sequence in the stretch and give FEU a 71-70 victory over La Salle Wednesday in the knockout game for the last UAAP men’s basketball Final Four berth at Araneta Coliseum.

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Tolentino, though, passed off credit to his teammates, particularly Kenneth Tuffin, who set up the endgame drama with a bold step-back jumper.

“My shot is just as big as Kenneth (Tuffin’s),” said Tolentino who stuck the three-point dagger with 3.1 left. “It’s as big as any basket we made in this game.”

“We’ve been working for this for nine, 10 months. We didn’t want this [year] to go to waste,” added Tuffin, who chimed in with 11 points to go with Tolentino’s 15.

And FEU coach Olsen Racela, meanwhile, tempered the celebration with a sobering reality.

“[This] is just one phase of our goal. We’re onto the next phase,” said Racela, an Ateneo legend.

A familiar foe awaits the Tams in the next phase. FEU pushed Ateneo to within a defensive stop of a huge Final Four upset until a clutch trey by Isaac Go rescued the Blue Eagles.

And if the Tamaraws had a hard time then, Racela expects an even more difficult time now.

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“It’s going to be a tall order because we’re going up against a team that swept the second round. But we’ll see,” he added. “The staff will prepare tonight. It’s a tough match-up. We’ll see.”

The Tamaraws and the Eagles tangle on Nov. 24.

It was a matchup that hung in the balance in the stretch as La Salle looked poised to forge a semifinal duel that would have sent cash registers ringing.

The Green Archers, leaning on Aljun Melecio and Santi Santillan, pushed the Tamaraws to a 64-68 corner. Melecio later buried audacious, off-balanced scoop to keep that four-point buffer for La Salle.

But Tuffin’s jumper cut the deficit to 68-70 and a La Salle miss gave FEU roughly 20 seconds—without a timeout—to craft a final play on the fly, resulting in Tolentino’s three.

“It was all them,” Racela said. “Those shots didn’t come off timeouts.”

Still, Santillan had a chance to steal the game on a perfect play off a La Salle timeout, but flubbed a short stab underneath the basket.

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TAGS: Far Eastern University, Final 4, La Salle, UAAP men’s basketball Final Four
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