ANTIPOLO, Philippines – The FEU Tamaraws marched on to their seventh straight UAAP Final Four appearance with an 82-58 blowout of the UE Red Warriors in the men's basketball tournament at the Ynares Center in Antipolo City on Sunday, October 27.
With the win, the Tamaraws grabbed a share of the 3rd sport with UST with identical 8-6 slates to end the elimination round.
However, FEU holds a superior quotient over UP (8-4), UST (8-6) and La Salle (6-6) even in the event of a four- or three-way tie at 8-6, thus securing the Tamaraws a Final Four berth. The worst they can go down to is 3rd place.
If UP wins its match against La Salle, the Maroons will clinch the twice-to-beat semifinal advantage with FEU and UST netting the 3rd and 4th spots, respectively.
The Tamaraws had the game in full control as Wendell Comboy led the way with 17 points and 4 rebounds on a 5-of-7 threes while L-Jay Gonzales added a double-double of 12 markers and 10 boards.
Meanwhile, the also-ran Warriors dropped to 3-10 for the season with a game left to play on Wednesday, October 30, against the cellar-dwelling NU Bulldogs.
"Well, who would have thought of us making it to the Final Four?," said FEU coach Olsen Racela. "Walang naniwala sa amin except sa mga nasa loob ng circle namin, and of course, the FEU community (No one believed in us except for those in our inner circle, and of course, the FEU community)."
After a back-and-forth 1st quarter, FEU left UE in the dust with an 18-5 run capped by a Comboy triple for a 35-19 lead with 2:42 left in the half.
Comboy and rookie Royce Alforque then conspired for consecutive three-balls late in the 3rd period to push the lead to 19, 50-31. Although Rey Suerte came alive as well from deep, UE only managed to trim the deficit to 11, 42-53, with 40 ticks left.
FEU then ran out to a 14-2 run bridging the final two frames to create a 24-point separation, 67-43, off back-to-back triples from Ken Tuffin and Xyrus Torres with 5:23 remaining.
Both teams' third-stringers then went at it in the waning minutes as James Tempra kept the lead at 24, 82-58, with 30 ticks left.
Rey Suerte paced UE with 16 points, 11 rebounds, 5 steals and 4 assists as Alex Diakhite added 13 markers and 10 boards on a 6-of-20 clip.
"We're not done yet," said Racela. "Our goal every year is to make it to the Final Four, then we move on. We’ve achieved our first goal, we're on to our next goal."
FEU 82 – Comboy 17, Alforque 13, Gonzales 12, Tuffin 9, Stockton 7, Tchuente 5, Ebona 4, Torres 3, Bayquin 2, Bienes 2, Cani 2, Dulatre 2, Nunag 2, Tempra 2, Celzo 0, Mantua 0.
UE 58 – Suerte 16, Diakhite 13, Cruz 12, Tolentino 9, Manalang 5, Apacible 3, Antiporda 0, Beltran 0, Conner 0, Lorenzana 0, Mendoza 0, Pagsanjan 0, Sawat 0.
Quarters: 15-14, 40-26, 57-42, 82-58.