FAR Eastern University moved closer to copping the UAAP Season 75 juniors and women’s basketball crowns by winning their respective Finals opener on Sunday at the Filoil Flying V Arena in San Juan.
Roger Domingo drained a key triple in the last 11.8 seconds as the Diliman-based Baby Tamaraws nipped titleholder National University, 78-77.
Defending women’s champion FEU got its bearing in the second half to down La Salle, 64-56, to keep its unblemished record intact.
The Baby Tamaraws took the 1-0 lead in the best-of-three series despite losing soon-to-be named two-time MVP Jerie Pingoy to five fouls in the last 1:07.
“Ang key ng pagkapanalo namin ay ang aming depensa. We never stopped believing,” said FEU mentor Mike Oliver.
The Bullpups tried to steal the win, but they could not convert on their last possession.
The FEU juniors and women’s teams, both trying to atone the heartbreaking finish by their senior counterparts this season, can claim the championship with victories in Game Two on Thursday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Pingoy had 16 points, five steals and four assists while Joel Lee Yu contributed 12 points for the Baby Tamaraws.
“Nawala ang game plan ng NU na pagdating ng crucial part na babagasak ang bola kay Pingoy. Blessing in disguise pa ang pagkawala niya kaya hindi nila alam kung sino ang susyut sa amin,” said Oliver, whose wards were trailing by seven in the last three minutes.
Raphael Atangan collected 23 points and nine boards while Reggie Morido and Hubert Cani added 16 markers for the Bullpups.
Last year’s Finals MVP Allana Lim bucked a scoreless first half, finishing with a game-high 17 points as FEU moved closer in retaining the crown.
The Lady Tamaraws became the first basketball team in the UAAP to go 15-0, but for coach Allan Albano, it’s still far from over.
“Hindi pa masyadong satisfied, we need one more win. Masaya kami, pero wala pang karapatang mag-celebrate,” said Albano.
“Sobrang pressured kami dahil sa unbeaten kami,” he added.
By completing a 14-game sweep of the eliminations, FEU is enjoying a huge ‘thrice-to-beat’ incentive in the championship round.
Soc Borja (13 points), Karen Columna (12) and Camille Sambile (11) also chipped in double-digit numbers for the Lady Tamaraws.
Trisha Piatos led the Lady Archers with 15 markers.