FEU Tamaraws def. DLSU Green Archers 71-70
Arvin Tolentino, FEU (15 points, 5 rebounds, 2 steals, 2 blocks)
What a way for Arvin Tolentino to extend his college career. He didn’t shoot well from the field but does that really matter with his game-winning triple to send FEU to the Final Four? What was more impressive about his game was that he didn’t just do it on offense. He had a couple of key hustle defensive plays as well, two things that have been established as his weaknesses. He’s been maligned for much of his time in the seniors’ division and has had struggles with suspensions this season but that big shot seemingly erased all doubt. It seems only fitting that he continues his redemption story by facing off against his former school, the Ateneo Blue Eagles.
Barkley Ebona, FEU (12 points, 16 rebounds)
If not for Tolentino’s game winner, Ebona would’ve been the easy choice for player of the game. He was just a monster in the paint. In a game that had most giving La Salle the size advantage, Ebona almost singlehandedly outworked them all. It was especially apparent on the offensive boards where he almost outrebounded the whole team 10-to-11. He’s proving again and again that he is more than capable of replicating Prince Orizu’s production. Heck, FEU looked a lot better with him manning the paint instead. He also made a great two-man combo with Hubert Cani in the pick-and-rolls. At one point, Joaqui Manuel had to play denial on him just so he couldn’t set a screen. He was that dangerous.
Wendell Comboy, FEU (8 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists)
Comboy probably deserves an honorable mention with how he held his own against La Salle’s big men. He boxed out well and played pretty good one-on-one post defense. He was a big reason why the Tamaraws got away with playing three guards against the Green Archers’ triple tower lineups. He channeled his inner Josh Hart (hello fellow Lakers fans) and it led to a W.
Santi Santillan, La Salle (20 points, 6 rebounds)
You have to feel for Santi Santillan. He was impressive all throughout the game. He was aggressive and practically unstoppable as he top-scored for his team and was the only one in double digits scoring-wise. Unfortunately, all anyone (himself included) will remember is the last play where he was THIS close to booking a Final Four ticket for La Salle. It was the perfect ATO play as well. FEU just bothered him enough to miss it. Sadly, he won’t have a chance to redeem himself anymore. It was a great individual game, but a heartbreaking finish for the graduating big man.
- This was a pretty weird game by all accounts. Except for a couple of possessions in the first half, it was a slow, grind-it-out affair with both teams struggling and bleeding for their points. La Salle almost won it on the FT line. They practically lived there by repeatedly forcing the issue inside the paint and fishing fouls. For the first seven and a half minutes in the fourth period, that was where all their points came from. As for FEU, they made up for the FT disparity by relentlessly attacking the offensive boards. They held a 27-11 advantage which led to +24 field goal attempts. That was huge especially with their struggles from the field, especially from the three-point line (just 9/34, 7 of those makes from the first half).
- A key point in the game was how La Salle probably overplayed their size advantage. They were smart in forcing the issue but too many times they went for triple tower lineups with no spacing. They just didn’t work as FEU kept shredding those lineups. They went on runs and grabbed momentum literally every time a three-big lineup was on the floor. They would either hit threes or just outrun them in transition.
- I mentioned before that the return of Taane Samuel would be a double-edged sword. He could either be the boost they need or mess with the chemistry. This game proved to be the latter. It felt like Coach Louie Gonzales kept forcing him into triple tower lineups when La Salle might have been better served going with their tried and tested combinations instead. It seemed to mess with everyone’s rhythm, particularly Justine Baltazar who scored just 6 points on 10 attempts. He was a defensive liablity as well with his slow feet. FEU kept burning him whenever he switched PnRs and he’s slow to recover to shooters. It was just too much Samuel in such an important game.
- At the end of the day, there were just too many missing links for La Salle. Even Aljun Melecio was MIA as he scored just 9 points. They simply played a bad do-or-die game. Credit to FEU for taking advantage and finding ways to win. They consistently got production from almost all the lineups they put out their on the court.