MANILA, Philippines – Far Eastern University Tamaraws outlasted the University of the Philippines Fighting Maroons in overtime, 56-52, in a battle between two of the top teams in the 2018 Smart City Hoops 25-under Summer Classic on Thursday evening, May 10.
The Tamaraws wound up with an unblemished 5-0 record and secured an outright finals berth in the tournament presented by Chooks-to-Go.
More than the win, FEU head coach Olsen Racela said the squad showed tremendous character in the contest.
"I liked the way we grinded it out right from the start. It was a very low-scoring game," shared the second-year Tamaraws tactician. "Everyone chipped in, even those I just plucked from the bench really helped. Their focus and awareness was there all throughout the game."
With the game knotted at 52-all with 39 seconds remaining, Axel Inigo, who had 8 points in the contest, blew by his defender to score the go-ahead floater.
On the other end, Kenneth Tuffin was able to force David Murell to a tough lay-up that led to a split on the stripe for JR Parker.
"It was like a UAAP game, like the actual season. It was a defensive game and really, what we emphasized to the players was to focus on the defensive end," added Racela. “The offense will take care of itself. Our crucial baskets earlier, it came off our stops – the breakaway, the and-one play. That was our emphasis, to play defense."
UP had a chance to at least cut the lead with 16.5 ticks remaining. Diego Dario though committed a costly turnover – an inside pass to Bright Akhuetie that was easily intercepted by Inigo – that ultimately sealed the game for FEU.
Leading the way for FEU in regulation was Tuffin, finishing the game with 14 points and 8 rebounds. Ino Comboy chipped in 10 points as well.
The Fighting Maroons, who ended the round with a 4-1 slate and will face the Lyceum Pirates in the knockout quarterfinals, were paced by Bright Akhuetie. The Nigerian student-athlete had a double-double of 10 points and 15 rebounds but shot just 3-for-13 from the field.
UP ace Paul Desiderio was limited to just 10 points on a 3-of-11 shooting clip.
FEU (56) - Tuffin 14, Comboy 10, Inigo 8, Ebona 6, Parker 6, Cani 5, Orizu 3, Bienes 2, Jopia 2, Ramirez 0, Casino 0, Bayquin 0, Nunag 0.
UP (52) - Akhuetie 10, Desiderio 10, Manzo 9, Murrell 6, Gozum 4, Dario 2, Tungcab 2, Lim 0, Vito 0, Santiago 0, Longa 0, Espanola 0.
Quarterscores: 11-11, 17-18, 35-38, 50-50, 56-52.