RR Pogoy catches fire in the third quarter as FEU took the lead and never looked back to take game 1 of the UAAP Finals vs NU
MANILA, Philippines – 2005. That was the last time the FEU Tamaraws won a UAAP men’s basketball championship.
Nine years later, FEU inches closer to breaking that spell, as they are now one win away from winning their 20th title in the UAAP’s 77-year history.
That became the case after the Tamaraws, three days fresh off an unforgettable win against defending champion De La Salle Green Archers at the buzzer, held on late in the fourth quarter to get past the pesky NU Bulldogs, 75-70, in game one of their best-of-three finals on Saturday afternoon, October 4, at the Mall of Asia Arena.
Mac Belo struggled from the field as he made only 3 of his 13 attempts from the field, but converted the most important shot of the game for FEU, which also got 15 and 14 points from Mike Tolomia and RR Pogoy, respectively.
Game two is on Wednesday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum, where the Tamaraws could put their nine-year title drought behind them along with the disappointing eliminations they’ve suffered over the past few seasons.
“The most important game is the first game,” said FEU head coach Nash Racela after the game. “We’ll treat the next game as a do or die game.”
The Pogoy show
The second half quickly turned into the RR Pogoy show, as the veteran scorer racked up 7 quick points to turn momentum to the Tamaraws’ side in the opening minutes of the third quarter.
NU struggled on offense all throughout the third and was unable to take advantage of their biggest strength – their defense – as Far Eastern University scored 25 total points in the period.
“We just reminded them to do the right things,” Racela talked about his halftime adjustments with his club, who was on the losing side of the scoreboard after 20 minutes of play.
“We were giving them (NU) breakdowns. I think we just reminded them to be disciplined and tamang depensa (play correct defense.)”
Entering the fourth quarter, the Tamaraws were ahead by 10, 60-50.
The Bulldogs didn’t go away easily as they went on a 9-4 run to start the final quarter, capped off by a lefty layup by Gelo Alolino, to cut FEU’s lead to 5, 64-59, with about five minutes to go in the contest.
A couple of jumpers by FEU extended the lead back up to 9, but the Bulldogs kept it close thanks to a combined 5 points from Alfred Aroga and Alolino.
Not long after, a clutch 3-ball by the erstwhile struggling JJ Alejandro proved huge, as it cut the Tams’ lead to 3, 71-68, with 1:01 to go in game one.
Off the time-out Racela designed a play for Belo, who after a few screens caught a slower Aroga on him. Thanks to his foot speed, Belo managed to leave the Bulldogs’ best defensive player biting his dust and converted a left-handed layup that put FEU up by 5, 73-68.
“Perfect place, perfect timing. Again… Mac is not afraid to take the big shots,” Racela complimented his star player.
“I think NU made good adjustments… so we had to look for another guy. We were blessed na si Mac delivered.”
In the following possessions, NU managed to convert a pair of free throws and get a defensive stop to have one last crack at a 3-pointer to send the game to overtime.
However, Glenn Khobuntin missed on his three-point attempt, which was followed by game-sealing free throws courtesy of Achie Inigo.
“We’ll review. For sure, Coach Eric will have a lot of adjustments,” Racela mentioned in Filipino. “We’ll anticipate that.”
Aroga led the Bulldogs with 17 points and 8 rebounds, while Alolino wasn’t far behind with 14 and 7.
Troy Rosario, who left the game in the fourth period due to cramps, had 12 points and 8 boards.
NU had 31 attempts from the free throw line, but only made 15.
“I think it’s a blessing they had 31 free throws,” Racela said during the post-game media session. FEU had only 13 attempts from the foul line, but converted 11 and shot a respectable 41% from the field.
NU was the first team to make a significant run as they amped up the pressure on the defensive end in the second quarter.
Thanks to the Bulldogs’ scrappy defense, the Tamaraws began turning the ball over on consecutive possessions which helped NU get their lead up to six.
Not long after, Rosario hit a step-back jumper to up his scoring output to eight and make the count 28-18, the first time a team had a double-digit lead in the ballgame.
A layup by Reden Celda put the Bulldogs up by 12, but FEU didn’t allow the deficit to grow any larger. Thanks to a quick scoring outburst from Tolomia and Raymar Jose, the Tams managed to slice the deficit to one.
Towards the end of the first half, the pesky antics of FEU guard Ron Dennison started to disrupt the flow of Alolino, as the two exchanged some words and a staredown late in the second quarter.
The incident looked like it motivated the National U guard, whose hook shot and 3-ball helped the Bulldogs claim a 38-35 lead entering the half.
FEU (75): Tolomia 15, Pogoy 14, Inigo 12, Belo 8, Hargrove 8, Jose 4, Dennison 5, Tamsi 3, Cruz 2, Escoto 0
NU (70): Aroga 17, Alolino 14, Rosario 12, Khobuntin 9, Celda 7, Javelona 3, Betayene 3, Alejandro 3, Diputado 2, Neypes 0, Perez 0
Quarter Scoring: 14-15, 35-38, 60-50, 75-70
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