Photo by Josh Albelda
MANILA, Philippines – Having experienced first hand what it was like to get out-dueled by defending champions De La Salle Green Archers, former FEU Tamaraws star guard RR Garcia is happy to see his old team alter the script this season.
“Sobrang saya ko siyempre. Grabe yung pinakita nila ngayon lalo kasi last year (baliktad) yung nangyari nung sila (La Salle) kalaban namin,” said the 24-year old, who now plays for Barako Bull in the PBA, after FEU won the playoff for the second twice-to-beat edge on Sunday, September 21.
(I’m very happy of course. They had a way better showing now, because last year it was the other way around against La Salle.)
Garcia played his final season for FEU last year, when the Tamaraws and Archers also locked horns in a virtual best-of-3 series. Back then, the Garcia and Terrence Romeo-led Morayta squad got the short end of the stick, losing the playoff for twice-to-beat before bowing out in one game against second seed and eventual champions La Salle.
This time around, the Tamaraws managed a reversal of roles and are one win away from their first Finals appearance since Season 74.
“Gusto talaga nila manalo, hindi sila nag-give up,” Garcia commended his former teammates. “Dati kasi ganoon din nangyari, humabol sila (La Salle) sa amin pero bumigay kami. Sila ngayon, hindi sila bumigay.” (They really wanted to win, they didn’t give up. What happened before was La Salle also rallied but we fell through. Now, they didn’t yield.)
What makes this superstar-less version of the Tamaraws better than last year? According to Garcia, it’s having superstars in every single man on the bench.
“Sa kanila siguro halos lahat sila nag-step up. Tulong tulong sila, hindi lang isa or dalawang tao yung naglalaro, lahat sila.” (With them right now nearly everybody stepped up. They help each other, it’s not just one or two players, it’s all of them.)
Teamwork was something head coach Nash Racela valued as soon as he picked up the cudgels after a disappointing Season 75 for FEU. And when his two stars, Garcia and Romeo, took their talents to the pros after Season 76, he immediately expressed his desire to see each Tamaraw step up.
That same team play is what FEU needs, according to Garcia, in order to finish off La Salle, whom they’ve beaten 3-0 this season.
“Pag nagkanya-kanya sila, wala,” Garcia said, who also cautioned against La Salle’s bigs, saying they must exhaust all means possible to keep them in check. (If they play selfishly, it won’t work.)
Garcia, a former UAAP MVP, continues to drop by FEU’s practices every once in a while to share pieces of advice to Tolomia and Achie Inigo, from one guard to another.
“As a point guard kasi sila dapat yung nagdadala sa court, sila yung nagle-lead,” he would tell the younger Tamaraws. (As a point guard they must take over on the court, they must lead.)
File photo by Rappler
For his part, Tolomia believes FEU’s defense will be instrumental to overcoming the Archers for a fourth time. During the playoff, they managed to shackle La Salle for 3 quarters, save for the third canto, to escape with the win. They also held a usually explosive Jeron Teng to just 8 points on two-of-11 shooting.
“Defense lang talaga. Kahit ano mangyari sa offense namin, kahit di kami maka-shoot, kailangan mag-depensa kami,” said the sweet-shooting FEU guard. “Yun din naman nagpanalo sa amin sa 3 games namin against La Salle.”
FEU looks to oust La Salle on Saturday, September 27 and foil their bid to extend the series to a rubber match.
The biggest motivator right now for FEU is the chance to direct their fate and, as one team, rise above last year’s fall.
“Sinasabi niya (coach Nash) na may chance kami ibahin yung this year compared sa last year na out kami,” said Tolomia, who also redeemed himself from his collapse from the stripe against Ateneo.
“Ngayon tulong-tulungan lang talaga kami sa depensa and opensa.” (Coach Nash keeps telling us that we have a chance to change things this year compared to last year when we got booted out. Now we just rely on each other on offense and defense.) – Rappler.com