FOR one last time, the Ateneo Blue Eagles and defending champions Far Eastern University Tamaraws go at it to settle who get to advance to the finals of Season 79 of the University Athletic Association of the Philippines in a rubber match set at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Forged after FEU came from behind last time around to win, 62-61, and negate Ateneo’s twice-to-beat edge in the Final Four, the 4 p.m. set-to between the number two and three seeds determine who the already-qualified De La Salle Green Archers will face in the best-of-three finals beginning on Saturday.
The Tamaraws rode on the yeoman’s effort of veteran Raymar Jose in the last game to extend their title reign and possibly go back to the finals to defend it.
Jose showed tremendous heart with a double-double of 20 points and 23 rebounds to show the way.
Seven of Jose’s points and 11 of his total rebounds came in the payoff period that saw the Morayta-based dribblers willed their way back from 10 points down to overtake the Eagles and win.
Guard Monbert Arong also stepped up for FEU in the win, scoring nine of his total 13 markers in the fourth period where they outscored Ateneo, 27-19.
Big man Prince Orizu had nine points and 10 rebounds for the Tamaraws.
“I told the players during the quarter break [heading into the fourth period] not to break down. The third quarter was tough for us and we nearly broke down but luckily we gathered ourselves and they accepted the challenge to come up with the win,” said winning coach Nash Racela after.
For game hero Jose, it was more of the team not wanting to take a vacation yet that propelled them to the win.
“We dug deep and wanted the win because we did not want to take a vacation yet. This is my final year and I wanted to give my all,” he said of his frame of mind in their win over Ateneo, the team’s first this season.
Mr. Racela said they hope to keep the momentum of their win heading into the all-important match today.
While they were derailed in the first of two tries to advance to the championship, the Eagles remain upbeat that they can come together and complete their business in the Final Four.
The loss halted a six-game winning streak for Ateneo, which was led by Aaron Black and Thirdy Ravena with 11 and 10 points, respectively.
The Eagles were outrebounded, 50-40, and shot just 17% from beyond the arc, something they felt did them in and, ditto, hope to address in the rubber match.
Prior to the loss, the Eagles had the number of FEU, winning in each of their two encounters in the elimination round.