WITH Prince Orizu in foul trouble, Far Eastern University seemed outmatched in the paint against a tall La Salle side on Wednesday in a knockout game for the last spot in the UAAP Final Four.
That was until Kevin Barkley Ebona stepped in.
Just like his namesake Charles Barkley, the 6-foot-5 Cebuano held his ground against opponents bigger than him to help the Tamaraws put away a 71-70 victory and seal a sixth successive appearance in the Final Four.
Not even cramps could stop him from playing the game of his life, powering through in the fourth quarter. He finished with 12 points and an impressive 16 rebounds, 10 coming off the offensive boards.
"Kailangan ko lang siguro ibigay yung best ko tapos kung anong task na binigay sa akin ni Coach O (Racela), sinuklian ko lang yung tiwala na binigay niya sa akin," Ebona said.
"Dalawang paa ko na ang nag-cramps eh," the 22-year-old forward shared. "Nagpapasahan na kami kung sino ang babantay kay (Santi) Santillan kasi mas mabilis siya. Inisip ko na lang siguro na wala ng bukas."
When Orizu ultimately fouled out at the 4:30 mark of the fourth quarter, Ebona showed no signs of slowing down and protected the paint for FEU.
"Ibibigay ko na ang lahat. Kung ano man mangyari, wala na akong magagawa dahil yun ang mangyayari. Basta at the end of the day, at least wala akong pagsisisihan," he said.
His effort was greatly appreciated by no less than Tamaraws coach Olsen Racela.
"He just typifies the Be Brave spirit of FEU," Racela said. "The way he goes for those rebounds, the way he defends. He got 10 offensive rebounds? Grabe yung puso ng batang yun. He gave us a lot of extra possessions in this game."
"Kina-cramps na nga siya noong huli eh. Nilabas ko tapos nag-foul out si Prince, so kailangan ko ibalik. And I was asking him the whole time, 'Okay ka pa? Okay ka pa?' Okay pa naman daw siya.
"So ganoon talaga yung puso niya, na kahit kina-cramps na yun, hindi magpapapigil eh."