2010 UAAP MVP Ryan Roose “RR” Garcia sank a cold blooded three pointer with 1:16 to go to give the Far Eastern University Tamaraws a 63 – 57 lead over the Ateneo Blue Eagles and was on the verge of giving the three time defending champions their first defeat in season 74 of the UAAP. In seasons 72 and 73 it can be remembered that it was the Tamaraws that inflicted the first loss of the Blue Eagles and they were banking on their depleted all hustle line up to do the trick once more as the Tamaraws controlled most of the game until the final 76 seconds of the game.
After an FEU time out and with 1:02 to play, the morayta based Tams were ready to chalk up win # 5 but unfortunately the Blue Eagles were not yet finished. The Blue Eagles showed what they can do when faced with tremendous odds and when faced with adversity. Emman Monfort stole the ball from the reigning MVP and was off to the races to convert an unmolested lay up. The Blue Eagles then forced the Tamaraws to a bad shot and in the ensuing play found rookie sensation Kiefer Ravena scoring on a drive. Then after another good defensive stop, Kiefer Ravena tied the ball game. Ravena was finding the open man but decided to drive to the basket and scored on another lay up. The Tamaraw’s final heave was met by a storm of Blue Eagles patrolling the air as their final shot, a pass by Terrence Romeo to Carl Cruz was blocked by both Salva and Slaughter as the Eagles forced the game into overtime. In overtime, the Blue Eagles got their game going and unleashed an 11 – 4 run to chalk up their 8th consecutive win 74 - 67.
The Blue Eagles started the game flat while the Tams were firing on all cylinders. What was more amazing for the Tamaraws was that they were missing the services of 6’10 center Christian Sentchiu and forward JR Cawaling due to various problems, both of them joined Pipo Nondou in the sidelines. But that personnel problem did not deter the hard fighting Tamaraws to control the first half as RR Garcia, who was playing to his 2010 numbers, scored at will in the second quarter as he scored 12 first half points. His offense eventually rubbed on his team mates as Carl Cruz and Rusell Escoto combined with Garcia to erect the biggest lead of the tamaraws 36 -20 in the second quarter. The Blue Eagles were firing blanks and their inside game was not in sync while the fabulous rookies Greg Slaughter and Kiefer Ravena were both in check. The Tamaraws ended the half with a baker’s dozen lead 38 – 25.
The Blue Eagles did not win seven consecutive games for nothing, at the half the coaching staff deciphered the plays ran by the Tamaraws which were the ones they used last year and not the ones they used in the first round of the UAAP. After adjusting to the plays, the Blue Eagles defense was in full throttle in the third quarter as they limited the Tamaraws to only nine points. It was in this quarter that the kid named as the Blue Mamba and is known as The Phenom went to work as he scattered seven points to jumpstart the Blue Eagle comeback and awake the Ateneo gallery which has been very silent this whole season.
The decibel level of Ateneo’s familiar “Get that ball” and “One Big Fight” cheer was so high that it pumped up the Blue Eagles to further play better defense. Greg Slaughter woke up in the fourth quarter as the Blue Eagles went exclusively to the sleeping giant who unfortunately went 3 for 6 on three trips to the free throw line and this went on until the last 1:16 before Garcia scored his triple with the Tams on top 60 - 57.
The Blue Eagles who were playing catch up the whole game and for the first time a veteran topscored for them as Nico Salva was brilliant all game long. Salva, who scored only 8 points in the Adamson game, scored in double figures for the 7th consecutive game. While the Tamarawas clamped on the rookies in the first half it was Salva who kept them at bay. At the same time, Justin Chua and Tonino Gonzaga kept the Blue Eagles in the thick of the fight when the second unit came in by scoring 9 and 6 points respectively. Expect all teams to play the way the Tamaraws played in the second round. This will just make it all the more exciting for the Blue Eagles as in every game there are different challenge that arise. Luckily there are always different heroes that rise to the occasion that always put the Blue and White on top.
Salva 18, Ravena 15, Slaughter 14, Chua 9, Monfort 7, Gonzaga 6, Long 3, Austria 2, Tiongson 0, Golla 0
Garcia 17, Romeo 11, Cruz 10, Ramos 8, Escoto 7, Bringas 6, Tolomia 5, Exciminiano 3, Pogoy 0, Mendoza 0, Knuttel 0
Quarter scoring: 13-21, 25-38, 42-47, 63-63, 74-67
Thanks to Diane Moraleda (Inboundpass) and Aly Yap (Fabilioh.com) for the pictures