MANILA, Philippines – After the mostly one-sided first game of the season, the Far Eastern University (FEU) Tamaraws and University of Santo Tomas (UST) Growling Tigers gave fans a more exciting showcase of basketball action.
FEU pulled out of the SM Mall of Asia Arena with a nail-biting 73-72 win in the final seconds.
The Tigers came roaring off the blocks, racing to a 6-0 lead early in the first.
But the Tamaraws, led by slashers Terrence Romeo and former league MVP Ryan Roose Garcia, didn’t take the beating sitting down. Within no time, the score was knotted at 8-all and the Tamaraws gained momentum.
Strong play from UST’s Karim Abdul sparked an 11-2 Tiger run that threatened to blow the game wide open once again. As would be the theme throughout the afternoon, the Tamaraws found numerous ways to answer.
A nifty Mark Bringas lay-in under the basket and a couple of Chris Tolomia freethrows later, the Morayta-based squad saw themselves down just three, 21-18, after the first period.
In the second quarter of play, UST Coach Pido Jarencio employed a zone in the hopes of neutralizing the FEU offensive in the paint. Though a few Tamaraws—import Anthony Hargrove, most notably—proved capable of knocking down the outside jumper, for the most part, Jarencio’s ploy worked and the Tamaraws ended the half shooting a paltry 38% from the field.
With spitfire Jeric Fortuna racing around the defense, the Tigers went into the locker rooms ahead, 37-31.
With a greater sense of urgency, Garcia led the Tamaraws back at the onset of the third. A balanced UST attack, however, wouldn’t allow Bert Flores’ boys from trimming the lead to less than 5.
Two three-point bombs from Jeric Teng and one triple from Clark Bautista gave the Tigers their biggest lead, 59-46, with over a minute left in the quarter. The green and gold were down a considerable margin, 60-50, heading into the final 10 minutes of play.
Capable of scoring with the best of them, former Rookie of the Year Romeo went on a personal 7-0 run to bring the Tamaraws within three, 60-57, with a little under 7 minutes remaining.
Soon enough, Tolomia snatched the lead for FEU, 65-64, after a barely-contested fastbreak layup with 4 minutes on the clock.
Tied at 69-all and nearing the close of the game, Teng hit a cold-blooded triple from the elbow—his third of the half and fourth of the game—to put the España-based squad up, 72-69.
An FEU basket trimmed the lead to one and the Tigers were on poise to squeak away with the win when a dribbling error by Fortuna proved to be UST’s undoing. The ensuing steal led to a Garcia layup and, ultimately, the 73-72 Tamaraw win.
Garcia lit up the score board with 21 points on 73% shooting (4 of 4 from beyond the arc) even as Hargrove had a solid double-double with 14 markers and 14 boards. Abdul, on the other hand, dominated in his Season 75 review with an impressive 24 points and 16 rebounds.
FEU, 73: Garcia – 21, Hargrove – 14, Romeo – 13, Tolomia – 8, Pogoy – 6, A. Bringas – 4, Mendoza – 3, Cruz – 2, M. Bringas – 2, Belo – 0, Escoto – 0
UST, 72: Abdul – 24, Teng – 18, Mariano – 10, Bautista – 7, Fortuna – 6, Afuang – 5, Ferrer – 2, Vigil – 0, Pe – 0, Lo – 0, Daquioag – 0
Quarter scores: 18-21, 31-37, 50-60, 73-72