(Smart Araneta Coliseum)
2 p.m. -- UST vs. DLSU (M)
4 p.m. -- ADMU vs. NU (M)
STILL charging under coach Nash Racela, defending champion Far Eastern University rallied from a 20-point deficit in the first half to beat University of the Philippines, 63-60, and assure itself of a Final Four playoff in the UAAP men’s basketball tournament yesterday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Sustaining their solid second round play, the Fighting Maroons built a 28-8 advantage but the Tamaraws stormed back in the last three quarters behind Raymar Jose to post their seventh straight win.
“We knew from the start na it will be really, really hard playing a team like UP. Talagang right now they are really energized. They are really playing good basketball. It shows the program of coach Bo Perasol, he is doing a great job in that team,” said Racela.
“During the half, pagpasok ko sa dugout sinabi ko ‘You want to do it the hard way because you put yourselves really in a hard position after the first quarter?’ So sige kung gusto natin ng mahirap, then kunin natin ng mahirap. Good thing we were still able to get that victory,” he added.
Also setting aside an off-court distraction regarding Racela’s future with the team, FEU improved to 8-2 in second place behind La Salle’s 10-0 card.
Later, Adamson arrested a two-game slide and moved in solo fourth with a 79-71 victory over University of the East.
Right now, the Tamaraws are simply focusing on the difficult task of winning a back-to-back championship despite a report that surfaced recently regarding Racela’s appointment -- although nothing official yet -- as the new TNT coach in the PBA.
“There’s no doubt that Nash will not leave the team at the middle of the season. Our only concern is Season 79,” said FEU athletic director Mark Molina, setting beside Racela during the customary post-game interview.
“If Nash gets the TNT position, we will do everything in our power to try to keep him within FEU in whatever capacity. With blessing from TNT,” he added.
Racela, who became elusive in the past few days when the news broke out, is ready for any eventuality in his coaching career, which includes stops in the MBA, PBL, NCAA and PBA D-League.
“A lot of coaches dreamt of coaching in the PBA. I came to a point sa buhay ko na if it comes, it comes. Kapag hindi, I’m satisfied kung nasaan na ako. I realized na God is really very grateful,” said Racela, who has been handling the Morayta-based squad since 2012.
Jose finished with 20 points and 12 rebounds to lead the way for the Tamaraws.
FEU opened the payoff period with an 11-2 run capped by a Jose basket to post a 57-48 lead at the 5:37 mark.
Not giving up, UP fought back and cut down the deficit to 60-63 in the final minute but fell short as Paul Desiderio and Jett Manuel missed key triples that could have tied the game.
Rebounding from their previous losses from the Green Archers and the Maroons, the Falcons got a break when their last Sunday’s game against Ateneo was called off due to bad weather, as Jerrick Ahanmisi and Papi Sarr teamed up for 42 points to book their fifth win in nine contests.
“Kami ang may killer schedule and I guess it took its toll. At least this win will be a springboard for us in the coming games,” said Adamson mentor Franz Pumaren, who avenged his first round loss against his brother Derrick. “I hope the young guys will accept the challenge and pressure.”
With their eighth loss in 11 starts, the Maroons are on the brink of another early exit, but this time around, the Diliman-based cagers will not simply roll and die.
FEU (63) -- Jose 20, Trinidad 9, Arong 8, Iñigo 7, Orizu 6, Eboña 5, Tuffin 4, Comboy 2, Holmqvist 2, Escoto 0, Dennison 0, Denila 0, Bayquin 0.
UP (60) -- Manuel 16, Desiderio 13, Prado 10, Lim 5, Harris 4, Gomez de Liaño 3, Dario 3, Moralde 2, Webb 2, Vito 2, Asilum 0, Jaboneta 0, Romero 0.
Quarterscores: 8-28, 27-36, 46-46, 63-60.
AdU (79) -- Sarr 25, Ahanmisi 17, Manalang 9, Manganti 8, Mustre 7, Camacho 4, Espeleta 4, Paranada 3, Bernardo 2, Chua 0, Ng 0, Ochea 0, Pasturan 0.
UE (71) -- Pasaol 16, Varilla 13, Abanto 10, Penuela 8, Manalang 4, Palma 4, Bartolome 4, Olayon 4, Armenion 4, De Leon 2, Gagate 2.
Quarterscores: 24-20, 40-40, 69-58, 79-71.