Another game, another heartbreak from the defending champions.
After beating the UP Fighting Maroons in their first matchup, 51-49, the FEU Tamaraws escaped UP again, 63-60, at the Araneta Coliseum, Saturday.
Led by the ever-reliable captain Jett Manuel and Paul Desiderio, UP shot out of warmups white-hot with an unlikely 28-8 lead, putting a big scare on the six-game winning streak of the Tamaraws.
Unfazed, FEU started its slow crawl back up, chipping in a few points from putbacks and a lone three-pointer from Allen Trinidad. Outscored 19-8, UP held on to a 36-27 lead at the half.
FEU head coach Nash Racela had some choice words for his team at halftime: “Kung gusto niyong manalo, pagtrabahuhan niyo.”
And work, they did. Playing impressive defense and textbook offense, the Tamaraws charged back as they outscored the Maroons 19-10, ending the third quarter on a 46-all deadlock.
Riding on a newfound momentum, FEU took control and eventually the lead. At one point, they even led by nine, 57-48, off the Maroons’ turnovers.
However, Manuel and Desiderio did not want to let this game slip away as they scored nine straight off three three-pointers.
After a lengthy and crucial ball-possession review at the game’s waning seconds, which eventually went to UP, coach Bo Perasol promptly called timeout.
In the huddle, the coaching staff drew up a play that would give Manuel a chance to tie the game at 63-all. However, they blew the inbounds pass and turned it over to FEU, which would ultimately seal the deal and send the Tamaraws to their seventh straight victory.
After missing the potential game-tying three, Manuel kneeled on the court, covered his face with his jersey and refused to leave.
A disappointed Bo Perasol said after the game that the boys could have taken care of business, having been able to get a good start.
“Coach Bo was very angry at us,” said Manuel, “and he had every right to be because he expected more from the team.”
He added, “I’m really proud of the team, but sometimes, I feel that I expect more from them, each and every one of them. That was a game we should’ve won. Flat out, we should’ve won.”
Manuel led UP again with 16 points, followed closely by Desiderio with 13. Returnee big man Jerson Prado had himself a nice game with 10 points and seven rebounds.
Meanwhile, Raymar Jose led the FEU comeback effort with a double-double: 20 points and 12 rebounds. However, he’s the only Tamaraw who scored in double-figures as Trinidad followed him with nine markers.
Despite UP leading in field-goal, three-point and free-throw percentages, FEU outrebounded the Maroons 53-39, which enabled them to outscore UP in second-chance points, 19-9.
With this loss, UP is now at 3-8 in the standings, accompanied by UE and UST at the bottom. They next face the NU Bulldogs on Oct. 26, Wednesday, at the Araneta Coliseum.#
Erratum: The venue for the next game is the Araneta Coliseum, not the SM Mall of Asia Arena as previously stated. We apologize for the oversight.