The Tamaraws outdueled the University of Santo Tomas Growling Tigers, 67-62, in a riveting do-or-die Game 3 on December 2,at the SM Mall of Asia Arena. The victory ended FEU’s decade-long title drought.
FEU’s premiere big man Mac Belo was named Finals MVP. He definitely proved he's worthy of the trophy after putting up 23 big points and grabbing eight rebounds in the rubber match. Roger Pogoy added 17 points while ace guard Mike Tolomia connected on 13 markers for the Morayta-based squad.
UST was led by Ed Daquioag's 21 points. The dynamic guard came up big in the final quarter, leading a 16-0 blast which gave the Tigers the lead, 57-51.
However, Pogoy went to work and almost single-handedly erased UST’s lead with his aggressive play. The Tamaraws countered with their own 10-1 run—seven of which were scored by the forward.
It was a cardiac affair in endgame as both teams exchanged leads with less than two minutes left to play. Pogoy went clutch once again and drained a big three, while Tolomia scored a layup that gave the Tamaraws a 63-60 edge.
However, UST failed to capitalize on their succeeding tries. Daquioag fumbled a crucial possession with less than 30 seconds left in the game. He and Belo dove for the ball, which went out of bounds. The possession arrow favored UST, but the Tigers immediately committed another turnover, failing to get the ball inbounds.
With time not on their side, the Tigers had to foul to stop the clock. The Tamaraws sealed the win from the freethrow line, securing their first UAAP Men’s Basketball title since 2005.
Game 3 was as good as advertised. It was a total nail-biter, from the opening buzzer until the final seconds. Here we've listed the factors that determined how Game 3 and the UAAP Season 78 Men's Basketball Championship was won.
ATTACK, ATTACK, ATTACK
Basketball is a game of motion. More often than not, the team with the better ball movement and/or attacking game wins the match . In this case, it’s clearly FEU.
The Tamaraws attacked the basket in the closing minutes of the game, stunning UST’s slow-footed defense with their blitzkrieg offensive scheme. This was evident when Pogoy and Tolomia stepped on the gas in the final quarter, punishing the Tigers with coast-to-coast drives resulting to (mostly) uncontested layups. Pushing the pace, especially during crunch time did wonders for FEU.
UST on the other hand became tentative. They didn’t move the ball well. Many of their possessions were wasted by Daquioag milking the shot clock near the top of the rainbow arc, only to be met by either Orizu or Belo on an unsuccessful drive. Sometimes he passed the ball to Karim Abdul, who’d immediately get doubled or was too far away from his sweet spots.
TOO MUCH BIG MAC
The Finals MVP proved to be too much for UST. The versatile forward played his heart out on both ends of the floor, asserting himself inside the paint on offense while effectively protecting the shaded lane on defense.
Yes, FEU has Prince Orizu, but the 6'8" bruiser constantly got switched during pick-and-roll situations, forcing him to defend Daquioag and leaving Belo to protect the paint alone.
Belo seemed to have reached his physical limit when he asked to be subbed out due to fatigue early in the fourth quarter. He soon returned to action though and immediately snapped UST’s 16-0 run after scoring under the rim via an inbound pass. That basket sparked FEU’s own 10-1 run.
FEU’S SUPERMAN, ROGER POGOY
We’ve said this before, and we’ll say it again: Roger Pogoy is FEU’s resident hero. Man, this dude is the definition of clutch. When the game was slipping from the Tamaraws' grasp after UST built an eight-point fourth quarter lead, Pogoy came to life and glided his way to uncontested layups. He scored seven straight points to keep the game within reach for FEU. He also scored a three to make it 61-60 for his team. You, sir, are cold-blooded!
Belo might have won the Finals MVP, but Pogoy won them the championship!
THE TWO SIDES OF ED DAQUIOAG
Daquioag was simply unstoppable early in the fourth quarter. In that span of time, he was the scoring machine the Tigers needed, draining jumper after jumper and keeping defenders guessing with his dribble penetrations. This was videogame Ed.
With his team down two with less than 30 seconds left, Coach Bong Dela Cruz asked for a clear out. Here comes an isolation play. The stage was set. All that's left was to execute the play, with Daquioag leading the charge.
We all know what happened next.
We already knew that UST’s fate will be dictated by how well Daquioag plays. Despite struggling throughout the series, Coach Bong gave him his trust in Game 3. We’re no master statisticians, but were pretty sure most of UST’s offensive sets were made for the shifty scoring guard.
Daquioag played awful in the first half. He was hesitant to finish and committed turnovers with desperate passes. He would dribble away the clock only to be trapped with time running out. It was definitely an eyesore to watch.
His lackluster first half resulted to UST getting pinned by a 10-point lead at one point. Thankfully, he got out of his slump, and went berserk in the second half. He was no longer second-guessing if he was going to shoot or pass. He only has one target: the rim. This is the good side of Ed. Hopefully, we'll see more of it next season when he'll be the unanimous leader of his team after Kevin Ferrer's departure.
Speaking of the man...
WHERE WAS KEVIN FERRER?
Seriously, did he even suit up? After an impressive Game 2 wherein he exploded for 24 points in one quarter, UST’s supposed-to-be leader was limited to just six in Game 3 and deferred to an unpredictable Daquioag. We didn't see and feel his familiar swag. Man, even rookie Marvin Lee had his moment. Where were you, Captain?
Photography KC Cruz