FEU's Mike Tolomia gestures after a three pointer. Photo by Mark Cristino for ABS-CBNnews.com
MANILA, Philippines – Former Far Eastern University (FEU) star RR Garcia was not surprised to see Mike Tolomia take over in crunch time for the Tamaraws in their 82-77 upset of defending champions De La Salle University Saturday.
Tolomia, who for years played in the shadow of Garcia and FEU's other high-scoring guard Terrence Romeo, scored 23 points and made big plays in crunch time as the Tamaraws stunned the Green Archers in their first game of the season.
"Hindi (ako nagulat)," Garcia said when asked about Tolomia's performance. "Kasi last year naman, ganoon na rin ang nilalaro niya."
"Hindi lang siya masyadong nakakakuha, kasi nandiyan si Terrence na scorer din, andito ako. Kaya noong nawala kami, siyempre, time niya na talaga ngayon," he added.
Garcia was also full of praise for big man Mac Belo, who kept the Tamaraws afloat in the first half when La Salle had taken a 13-point lead at the end of the first period.
"Si Mac naman, dati kasi role player siya. Pero ngayon, nasa kanya na kasi isa na siya sa leader diyan, team captain siya," said Garcia. "Siyempre, siya 'yung nangunguna talaga diyan."
Garcia believes the Tamaraws were able to send a message to the other teams with their performance in Saturday's game.
"Pinanindigan nila na kaya pala nila, kahit wala na kami (ni Terrence)," said Garcia, who together with Romeo led the Tamaraws to a Final Four stint last year, but lost to La Salle in just one game.
"Masyado silang gigil noong first half," Garcia observed. "Kaya hindi nila makuha 'yung rhythm nila. Pagdating ng second half, nakuha na nila 'yung rhythm nila, nag-iikot na 'yung bola nila, at 'yung role ni Mike, nakuha na niya."
Garcia was admittedly on the edge of his seat during the game, and was relegated to the role of cheer-leader at crunch time.
"Sobrang na-tense ako, kasi mas masarap mag-laro kaysa manood. Lalo na kanina na dikit, siyempre ako, cheer lang ako," he said. "Parang gusto ko pumasok mag-isa. Sobrang nakaka-tense talaga."