|FEU's RR Garcia hits the game-winning lay-up at the buzzer. The Tamaraws beat the NU Bulldogs, 77-75.
MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) -- In one of the most thrilling encounters of UAAP Season 75, former Most Valuable Player (MVP) RR Garcia converted a lay-up just before the buzzer sounded as the Far Eastern University (FEU) Tamaraws edged the National University (NU) Bulldogs, 77-75, Sunday at the Mall of Asia Arena.
It was a back-and-forth, nip-and-tuck affair that went down to the final second, but in the end, the Tamaraws managed to avenge their first loss of the season and earn their eighth victory in the men’s basketball tournament.
"Heart-attack game na naman," said FEU head coach Bert Flores.
Reigning UAAP MVP Bobby Ray Parks tied the game at 75-all with two free throws with 19.7 seconds to go, with the second free throw barely trickling in the basket.
With 15 seconds left in the game, Garcia lost the ball near the three-point line. Parks was able to gain possession momentarily, only for FEU's Terrence Romeo to poke the ball loose.
The Bulldogs still managed to advance the ball to their court, but in the ensuing scramble, it was FEU's Roger Pogoy who came up with the loose ball and fired it ahead to Garcia with two seconds left in the game.
Garcia received the ball with just 1.3 seconds left, zoomed ahead to the basket and flicked the ball in just before the light turned red.
After a lengthy review, officials ruled that the shot had counted, sending the FEU crowd into a frenzy.
"Sa akin, kumpyansa na rin," said Garcia, who finished with 10 points and nine assists. "Naisip din ni coach na sa akin na yung last shot kasi si Terrence, si Parks ang bumabantay, malaki."
Garcia, who won the MVP award in Season 73, has seen his statistics dip this season especially with the remarkable performances of teammate Terrence Romeo.
Against the Bulldogs, he struggled to start the ballgame, making his first field goal only in the third quarter. But he stepped up in the fourth period, scoring seven points, including the game-winning lay-up. Garcia also had a crucial assist to Romeo for a three-pointer with less than a minute to go, which gave FEU a 75-73 lead.
The Tamaraws were in control of the first half, thanks in part to Romeo’s 11 points. They shot 52% in the first two quarters en route to a 35-29 halftime lead.
But with Parks leading the way, the Bulldogs came charging back in the third quarter. After the Tams built a 41-31 lead, the Bulldogs went on a 14-2 run to take the lead, 45-42.
NU outscored FEU 29-16 in the third quarter to take a 58-51 lead going into the fourth period, but the Tamaraws quickly erased the deficit in just two minutes.
Two free throws from Anthony Hargrove made it 58-all, and from that point on, it was a nip-and-tuck affair as the two squads exchanged leads.
A split from the line by Jeffrey Javillonar gave NU their last lead of the game, 73-72, before Romeo’s three-pointer made it a 75-73 contest. Parks then tied the game at the free throw line, but the Bulldogs could not force overtime as because of Garcia’s heroics.
Parks had another stellar all-around game with 26 points and nine rebounds. It was his fourth game this season with 20-plus points.
The Tamaraws were playing without big man Arvie Bringas, who is serving the first of a two-game suspension after a spitting incident in their previous game against the Ateneo Blue Eagles.
"Yung ginawa ni Bringas, hindi maganda para sa FEU 'yun. Okay lang 'yung pisikal, pero 'yung ganun na, hindi na tama," said Flores.
With Bringas out of the line-up, Russell Escoto stepped up for the Tamaraws. The second-year forward scored a career-high 18 points on top of eight boards and drained a key three-pointer in the fourth quarter.
The victory puts the Tamaraws' record at 8-3, good for a tie of second place with the University of Santo Tomas Growling Tigers.
Meanwhile, the Bulldogs dropped to 6-5, putting them at fifth place. They have a tough schedule ahead, as they have yet to play defending champions Ateneo and De La Salle Green Archers.
FEU 77 - Romeo 20, Escoto 18, Hargrove 13, Garcia 10, Mendoza 7, Pogoy 6, Cruz 3, Sentcheu 0, Inigo 0, Belo 0, M. Bringas 0
NU 75 - Parks 26, Alolino 18, Mbe 14, Javillonar 7, Villamor 6, Rono 2, De Guzman 2, Singh 0, Rosario 0, Neypes 0, Labing-isa 0, Betayene 0
Quarter-scoring: 16-20, 35-29, 51-58, 77-75