This time, the Tamaraws got a measure of revenge in the rematch of last season’s finals.
Trailing by 10 points entering the midway of the final quarter, the unheralded forward Kyle Neypes connected timely buckets and tied the score at 52-all. Then the next sequence saw FEU star guard Mike Tolomia played iso-ball against the pesky defense of Pao Javelona at the top of the key. He then swished a booming triple. It’s natural in the sense that he can really hit those kind of shots (remember the Adamson game?). But the next possession really showed us how clutch he is. From the same spot, Tolomia drilled another triple. Unbelievable. Even Coach Eric Altamirano could not believe what he just saw. The entire FEU community suddenly went wild. Chants of “Tolomia, Tolomia, Tolomia!” were heard all over the Smart-Araneta Coliseum. I’m not sure if it all feels new to this kid; to have the ball in the crucial part of the game, to know that everyone – the coaches, his teammates, and even the opposing side, that he will take this kind of shot exclusively.
The Bulldogs rang off five straight points to move within two points, 61-59. This time, Javelona defended Tolomia really well. Alfred Aroga, who mustered another double-double of 17 points and 14 boards, made an errant pass that was intercepted by Al Francis Tamsi that doomed the chance of NU to force an extra period.
NU’s trademark defense was very evident in the first half. They held the Tams to 29 points and allowed only 24 attempts against their 35. Mac Belo struggled to create mismatches against the thin frontline of Bulldogs which they defended outstandingly.
Sudden turn of events happened in the third period. The Tamaraws’ defense took over, holding NU scoreless in the first six minutes to turn things around. Tamsi relentlessly hounded Gelo Alolino to disrupt their offense. Javelona was the one who handled the playmaking but unfortunately their point of attack was just very obvious as they were trying to post up Aroga down low.
INSIDE DOMINANCE VS. PERIMETER WIZARDRY
If you have an Incredible Hulk-like monster in the person of Aroga, expect the dominance inside the paint. The Cameroonian muscled his way inside every time he touched the rock. NU outpowered FEU in terms of inside scoring, 36-26.
On the other hand, FEU mastered the perimeter shotmaking especially during the times that they could not go hard inside the shaded lane. Good ball movement and timely screens gave the opponent a hard time to execute their offense. A 28-14 advantage in perimeter scoring favored the Tams.
Bunches of missed free throws hurt the Bulldogs to seal the win. A dismal 9/20 (45%) was in full effect down the waning moments of the game. Aroga, Alolino and Neypes combined 12 missed freebies. Heading into the next round, the Altamirano-led squad will continue the mastery on the defensive side. Contributions and help from other players are vital in the next stage as teams will go deep in their rotations, especially the Final Four contenders, to come up with fresh legs going to the crucial stages of the tournament.
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