TERRENCE Romeo rose to the occasion in overtime while Roger Pogoy hit a crucial basket as Far Eastern University won its second straight game in the UAAP men's basketball tournament, 79-75, at the expense of struggling Ateneo on Wednesday night.
Romeo scored 21 points for the Tamaraws in the fiercely fought game at the Mall of Asia Arena, none bigger than the four free throws he made down the stretch that sent five-time champions Ateneo to their second straight defeat while playing without injured star Kiefer Ravena.
The Tamaraws wasted a double-digit lead in regulation and were struggling to hold off the Blue Eagles in extra time until Pogoy delivered the game's biggest play, swiping the ball away from Ryan Buenafe in the rebound play after an RR Garcia miss and hitting the go-ahead basket.
The flamboyant Romeo, who struggled to find his touch in the fourth quarter, took over from there, hitting the four clutch free throws while making the final steal off Chris Newsome that sent the Eagles reeling to their worst start in a season in seven years.
The last time Ateneo started the season with back-to-back losses was in 2007.
Guard Mike Tolomia finished with 16 points, including a three-pointer that started a 5-0 opening salvo for the Tamaraws in overtime on the way to their second successive win under new coach Nash Racela.
Racela, however, refused to be carried away by the victory.
“The goal is the big picture,” said Racela. “The small steps are important and we want to get any win we can.”
The loss spoiled a career game for Ateneo gunner Ryan Buenafe, who had 29 points and 15 rebounds while picking up the cudgels for Ravena who missed the first UAAP game of his career due to a right ankle sprain.
FEU saw its 64-59 lead slip away after Newsome buried two free throws with 10.7 seconds left. Juami Tiongson also tied the game at 73-all with two free throws with 50 ticks remaining in overtime.
Ateneo appeared ready to snatch the win after Garcia’s missed lay-up but Pogoy took the ball away from Buenafe’s grasp and converted the go-ahead basket with 27.1 seconds remaining, 75-73.
Romeo then stole the ball from Elorde on the next play and was fouled. He converted the two free throws to give the Tamaraws a four-point cushion with 18 seconds left.
The Tamaraws appeared ready to cruise to victory after catching fire late in the third quarter when they scored eight straight points, including a buzzer-beating triple by Tolomia to end the period, 53-44.
Tolomia then scored a basket for an 11-point FEU lead at the start of the fourth.
FEU won despite another slow start that saw the team trail by double digits in the opening period.
Racela was the least surprised with Ateneo’s play.
“Ateneo is a strong team. Actually, kung third game namin sila baka mayari kami. Wala talaga si Kiefer. They will be more formidable once Kiefer comes back. We were just fortunate to win this game,” said Racela.
FEU (79) -- Romeo 21, Tolomia 16, Garcia 13, Pogoy 8, Hargrove 8, Cruz 5, Mendoza 4, Jose 2, Belo 2, Sentcheu 0.
Ateneo (75) -- Buenafe 29, Newsome 17, Elorde 9, Tiongson 7, Pessumal 6, Erram 4, Capacio 3, Murphy 0, Golla 0, Babilonia 0, Asistio 0.
Quarterscores: 14-18; 31-33; 53-44; 66-66(reg); 79-75.