FAR Eastern University unleashed a crippling 7-0 endgame run to turn back defending champion La Salle, 65-60, on Sunday and clinch the No. 2 seeding as well as twice-to-beat advantage in their UAAP Season 77 semifinal playoff at the Mall of Asia Arena.
Athletic guard Mike Tolomia and unheralded forwarded Carl Bryan Cruz delivered the killer blows for the Tamaraws, who refused to fold in the face of a searing second half rally by the Green Archers.
Tolomia, who missed two crucial foul shots in the team’s 64-68 overtime loss to Ateneo last week, scored on a drive before splitting his shots from the foul line to give the lead back to FEU, 61-60, with under two minutes to go.
As both teams traded bricks, Mark Belo grabbed a defensive rebound, setting up the undersized Cruz for a gutsy layup on the other end, and a foul by Almond Vosotros that gave FEU a 63-60 cushion, 24 seconds left.
La Salle tried to rally, but Vosotros’ desperation three-point attempts in the dying seconds failed to connect, while Tolomia and Cruz iced the game by combining for two more foul shots in the end.
“It was really hard especially coming off that loss against Ateneo,” said FEU coach Nash Racela, who only needs to win next Saturday against La Salle to advance to the UAAP Finals for the first time since 2011.
“And again, today, it showed the character of the team, eh sabi namin, if you want to succeed in life you have to persevere regardless kung ano nasa harap namin,” he added.
The Green Archers are now 0-3 against the Tamaraws this season, and face the unenviable task of needing to beat their tormentors two straight in the Final Four to keep their title-retention bid alive.
La Salle did not get the expected huge numbers from its season’s top scorer Jeron Teng, who only had eight points on an atrocious 2-of-11 shooting from the field.
The 6-foot-3 Teng, who appeared in a denim and underwear fashion show dubbed “The Naked truth” on Saturday, fouled out late in the game. He did contribute eight rebounds, but also turned the ball over five times.
Jason Perkins led the Green Archers with 15 points and 13 rebounds, while Vosotros had 13.
Tolomia led the Tamaraws with 19 points and eight rebounds, while Belo had a double-double of 15 points and 10 rebounds.