MANILA, Philippines – The FEU Tamaraws wrapped up their campaign in the UAAP Season 85 men’s basketball tournament on a winning note as they dominated the UST Growling Tigers, 77-62, at the Smart Araneta Coliseum on Saturday, November 26.
After seeing their league-best eight straight Final Four appearance streak come to an end last Wednesday in their 75-70 defeat at the hands of the Adamson Soaring Falcons, the Tamaraws bounced back big and snapped their four-game losing skid, thanks to the all-around efforts of LJay Gonzales and Bryan Sajonia.
Gonzales finished with 15 points, 4 rebounds, 4 assists, and 2 steals, while Sajonia added 11 points, 2 rebounds, 2 assists, and 4 steals for the Tamaraws, who finished the season with a 5-9 record despite starting off the opening round with a 0-5 slate.
On the other side, Ivan Lazarte topscored for UST – which played without its super-scorer Nic Cabañero due to an ankle sprain – with 13 points, while Adama Faye tallied a double-double of 10 markers and 18 boards.
Leading by 7 points at halftime, 40-33, the Tamaraws failed to take care of their advantage as the Growling Tigers unloaded a 10-2 blast to momentarily hold the lead, 43-42, off an Echo Laure trey midway through the third frame.
Luckily for the Tamaraws, they managed to regain their bearings just in time, ending the quarter on a fiery 14-2 run, capped by a tough buzzer-beating triple off the glass by Patrick Sleat.
FEU then coasted the rest of the way, even pushing its double-digit cushion to as many as 19 points, 72-53, with just 3 minutes left to play.
“Our situation today is really something different because we did not make the Final Four,” said FEU head coach Olsen Racela.
“We’re used to having a post-season, but I told [my players] we could do something different. In the past five, six years that I’ve been here, we always finished the season with a loss.”
“It’s something different that we could carry moving forward in the next season or even in the Christmas that we ended our season with a win and that’s what we did today,” he added in a mix of English and Filipino.
Like the Tamaraws, the Growling Tigers will look to end their season on a high note and finally put an end to their miserable 12-game losing streak when they face the La Salle Green Archers on Wednesday, November 30 at 2 pm.
FEU 77 – Gonzales 15, Sajonia 11, Torres 10, Sleat 9, Sandagon 8, Alforque 7, Tchuente 7, Bautista 3, Gravera 3, Anonuevo 2, Songcuya 2, Ona 0, Tempra 0, Bagunu 0, Celzo 0, Guibao 0.
UST 62 – Lazarte 13, Faye 10, Manaytay 10, Garing 9, Laure 7, Manalang 5, Pangilinan 5, Duremdes 3, Escobido 0, Mantua 0, Herrera 0.
Quarters: 24-17, 40-33, 56-45, 77-62.