MANILA, Philippines — “Lagi kong sinasabi sa kanila, ‘One game. One game. … Don’t think about the past, just think about this game,’” said FEU head coach Nash Racela.
And the Tamaraws looked like they heeded the call. For 40 long minutes, the boys in green and gold looked in control over the team that won every game but one in the UAAP’s elimination phase — the Ateneo de Manila Blue Eagles.
When the final buzzer rang with the scoreboard at 80-67, that “one game” translated to “one win.” FEU has forced one more meeting to stay alive in the Final Four and keep their bid for a championship dance with De La Salle University alive.
“‘Yung preparation namin really was before this game,” Racela said. “So lahat ng kailangan naming gawin, ginawa namin before this game. We were really confident going into the fourth quarter, that we will finish strong.”
True enough, FEU’s cylinders were clicking on the final frame. And the most noteworthy bit? The former Ateneo players — Hubert Cani and Arvin Tolentino reinforced the team-best performance of the graduating Ron Dennison.
Tolentino scored the second-most points in 13 markers. Cani chimed in 11 more to bolster the effort.
“Tinatrabaho na namin sa practice pa lang,” said Cani. “During practices namin, alam na namin ang gagawin sa game. Ginawa lang namin yung pinapagawa ni coach Olsen (in this game).”
For Tolentino, the experience he earned with the Blue Eagles definitely helped against his former team. “Happy din ako na na-share ko yun sa teammates ko, ‘yung experiences ko. [Kahit] talo halat eh. Pero ‘yung experience sa big games, sa playoffs, ang laking tulong din nun [dito]. Na-share ko ‘yun sa mga teammates ko.”
“Alam ko na sobrang hirap nila talunin dahil sobrang disiplinado nila na team,” Cani said of the Blue Eagles. “Kami, kailangan lang namin i-lessen ‘yung turnovers at gawin ‘yung tama at maging mas disiplanado pa sa kanila dito sa playoffs.”
With stakes so high, the Tamaraws went on charging. The result? Their most prolific outing of the season.
“It’s our best game so far. We were hoping for Game Two. Actually, I told the players before the game na nagpe-peak kami at the right time so hindi pa tapos ‘yung season namin,” Racela said.
“We’re really looking forward to Wednesday’s game and the growth of these players — ‘yung mga pinagdaanan namin sa elimination, talagang nakatulong sa amin lalo na sa mga ganitong klaseng laro.”
Olsen and his Tamaraws take on the now 13-2 Ateneo once more at 4 p.m. Wednesday at the Mall of Asia Arena.
FEU 80 – Dennison 17, Tolentino 13, Cani 11, Orizu 10, Escoto 9, Inigo 8, Trinidad 5, Parker 4, Ebona 3, Comboy 0, Bayquin 0, Ramirez 0, Stockton 0, Tuffin 0
ATENEO 67 – Ravena 17, Nieto Mi 13, Nieto Ma 11, Go 9, Tolentino 5, Mendoza 4, Asistio 3, Tio 3, Verano 2, Ikeh 0, Black 0, Mamuyac 0, Mallillin 0
QUARTER SCORES: 21-15, 38-35, 59-48, 80-67