DE La Salle's reign as UAAP men's basketball champions is over.
Blame it on 'Big Mac.'
Mac Belo, Far Eastern University's unheralded but very effective forward, scored 10 of the team's final 12 points on Wednesday night - none bigger than the three-pointer at the buzzer that lifted the Tamaraws past the Green Archers, 67-64, in their sudden-death game at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
The 6-3 Belo, who just three days ago scored a career-high 32 points in FEU’s 73-94 loss to La Salle, got the pass from a driving Mike Tolomia with around 1.5 seconds left and calmly sank his second three-pointer in the endgame to give FEU a shot at its first league championship since 2005.
“The last play was really designed for Mike Tolomia, but in the end, he made the most important decision of his basketball career. Di niya pinilit pero binigay niya kay Mac Belo,” said FEU coach Nash Racela.
The win advanced the second-seeded Tamaraws to the best-of-three championship series against the National University Bulldogs, who earlier in the day ousted no. 1 seed Ateneo, leaving the two seeds out of the finals for the first time since the Final Four format was introduced in the league in 1994.
The title series beginning on Saturday at the Mall of Asia Arena will also mark the first finals since 1992 without an Ateneo or La Salle in it.
Belo, a member of the Philippine Sinag team that captured last year’s Southeast Asian games basketball gold medal, finished with a game-high 23 points, spiked by four three-point shots, while adding eight rebounds and two assists in another do-it-all effort.
“Sobrang blessed,” said Belo.
Racela also commended Tolomia for not veering away from the team concept they have been emphasizing this season.
“He (Belo) hit the biggest shot of the ball game, but I think what’s commendable was that another guy who made the pass. It’s a team game, it just so happened that Mac made it,” said Racela.
The two-year FEU coach believes that despite the absence of La Salle and Ateneo in the UAAP Finals, both schools are capable of bringing in the crowd.
“I realize last year lang, Ateneo and La Salle are always in the Finals since 1992. But I think this is the best thing that ever happened to the UAAP, having FEU and NU in the Finals,” Racela said.
“I think like how we witnessed today, NU can bring the crowd, FEU can bring the crowd. I think hindi lang naman Ateneo and La Salle ang makakapagdala niyan eh,” added the La Salle alumnus.
FEU 67- Belo 23, Tolomia 14, Pogoy 8, Hargrove 6, Inigo 5, Jose 3, Cruz 3, Tamsi 3, Ru Escoto 2, Ugsang 0, Dennison 0, Lee Yu 0, Ri. Escoto 0
La Salle 64- Teng 13, Perkins 12, Van Opstal 11, Sargent 8, N. Torres 7, Rivero 7, Vosotros 6, Montalbo 0, T. Torres 0, Bolick 0
Quarterscores: 24-17, 42-37, 51-47, 67-64