Thursday, 15 September 2011 5,150 Views / 224 Comments
“YUNG mga senior players, tulad ni RR [Garcia], gusto pa nila mag-ensayo. Sabi ko, ano, magpapahinga pa ba tayo? Pero gusto pa raw nila mag-ensayo,” quipped FEU head coach Bert Flores.
The extra effort seemed to pay off for the Far Eastern University Tamaraws, who forced a winner-take-all game versus the Adamson University Falcons, coming up with a 59-49 win in the Final Four of the 74th UAAP season last September 15, 2011 at the Araneta Coliseum.
“Unang-una, depensa, at ball-sharing,” Flores disclosed. “At mawala yung bola kay Alvarez.” The Tamaraws did exactly that.
Up six at the start of the second half, five different scorers contributed to more than double the Tamaraw lead to 13, 40-27, as Terrence Romeo capped off an 11-4 run with a huge triple four minutes in. Adamson responded with a jumper by Eric Camson, but after a quiet first half, RR Garcia found his groove, converting twice to consolidate a putback by Aldrech Ramos and pad the lead to 46-29 with 3:34 left. Off a steal by Roider Cabrera, the trigger-happy Falcons finally connected thanks to a Janus Lozada deuce, which ended a three-minute drought and cut the deficit to 15. The FEU backcourt was not finished yet, as Romeo and Garcia connected on back-to-back triples, pushing the Tamaraw lead to a game-high 21 points with 30 seconds left in the third.
Determined to keep on fighting, Camson and Nuyles scored seven straight while Adamson shut down the Tamaraws for the first five minutes of the fourth quarter. With the score at 52-39, Romeo scored on a baseline drive to boost the FEU advantage back to 15, but back-up point guard Jerick Cañada quickly came down the other end and hit a triple, making it a 12-point game with 4:54 remaining. In transition, Ping Exciminiano, showing little problem moving after missing most of his squad’s last regular season game versus La Salle with an ankle sprain, put back a Russel Escoto miss before Alex Nuyles took over, as the Falcons turned to their top scorer for some quick points. The shooting guard replied in earnest, starting by splashing in a triple and soaring high for a dunk, which trimmed the deficit below double-digits, 56-47 with four minutes left to play.
Romeo missed a triple in an attempt to swing momentum back FEU’s way and Nuyles then barreled down the other way, drawing Exciminiano’s fourth foul and converting on the two charities to chip away at the advantage further, 56-49. Unbeknownst to him, though, his free throws were the last points for Adamson, as it missed its next six shots to close out the game. On the other side, rookie Cris Tolomia earned a split at the line before Romeo scored on a floater with 1:34 remaining to silence the predominantly Adamsonian crowd. “Wag lang magmadali,” Garcia recalls telling his teammates when Adamson began to rally back, citing the crowd noise from the Falcons’ side as a factor for their spate of turnovers in the fourth quarter.
In the end, FEU’s two scoring guards were more than a match for Adamson’s lone producer. Romeo top-scored for his team with 19 points on 8-of-17 shooting, grabbed four boards, dished out three assists and came up with two swipes. Last season’s rookie of the year also issued his teammates a strong ultimatum in the second half, saying, “Wala munang mag-rerelax. At kung ano tayo nung first quarter at first half, doblehin natin.” Garcia shook off a five-point first half to drop 11 in the third quarter while pulling down eight rebounds all in all. The frontcourt of Russel Escoto and Aldrech Ramos formed a mighty tandem down low, accounting for nine points and 15 caroms.
As has been the trend in the three Adamson-FEU games, the Falcons were a one-man team as Nuyles found very little support from his teammates. The top-five finisher in the MVP race finished with 20 points, six rebounds, two assists and a steal, but no other Falcon scored more than six points, as Camson came off the bench to score exactly that much. Adamson’s two veteran point guards, Cañada and Alvarez added five each, while Rodney Brondial grabbed 10 rebounds and blocked three shots.
Adamson’s fourth quarter rally was fueled by a switch to a 2-3 zone, which gave the Tams fits initially as the Falcons had never gone to that scheme against them this season. “Di namin pri-nactice yun,” said Garcia, before Flores chimed in, “Bihira kasi sila mag-zone sa amin….Aaralin namin yan.” But as the Falcons went zone, FEU was able to get multiple looks at the basket, winning the rebounding war for the first time this season, 51-41, 20-18 on the offensive glass. The Tamaraws also garnered a 14-8 edge in terms of second-chance points, and converted 14 Adamson turnovers into 19 points.
The two teams will meet again on Sunday, September 18 at 3 p.m. for the right to face the Ateneo Blue Eagles in the Finals. It’s a dicey situation for the Falcons especially after Nuyles seemed to injure his ankle near the end of the game, and had to be helped off the court by his teammates. FEU, meanwhile, dressed injured players Pipo Noundou, Christian Sentcheu and JR Cawaling. All of them participated in pregame warm-ups. “Baka masira [the flow of their rotation], pero depende sa sitwasyon,” said Flores while keeping the option of using those players open.
FEU 59 – Romeo 19, Garcia 16, Exciminiano 8, Ramos 7, Bringas 6, Escoto 2, Tolomia 1, Pogoy 0, Cruz 0
Adamson 49 – Nuyles 20, Camson 6, Cañada 5, Alvarez 5, Brondial 4, Lozada 4, Colina 3, Manyara 2, Etrone 0, Cabrera 0
Quarter scoring: 11-9, 29-23, 52-32, 59-49