UAAP: FEU punches Final 4 ticket, and silences doubters

Camille B. Naredo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Oct 27 2019 05:51 PM

UAAP: FEU punches Final 4 ticket, and silences doubters 1
FEU's Barkley Ebona attempts a layup against UE. UAAP.

MANILA, Philippines -- "Who would've thought?"

Far Eastern University (FEU) coach Olsen Racela was the first to acknowledge his team's unexpected achievement on Sunday, after the Tamaraws punched their ticket to the Final 4 of the UAAP Season 82 men's basketball tournament.

Few pundits projected the Tamaraws to make it to the playoffs, given the depth of the playing field this year, and the loss of several key players including big man Prince Orizu, point guard Jasper Parker and top scorer Arvin Tolentino.

For a while, the Tamaraws lived up to the modest expectations -- they were mired in the middle of the standings, and were just at 3-4 after the first round. One of those losses was a brutal 61-39 defeat to National University (NU), the lowest-ranked team in the league.

But they stepped up in the second round, claiming important wins over University of the Philippines, University of Santo Tomas, and De La Salle University. They lost to NU again, but finished the eliminations on a 3-game winning streak.

An impressive 82-58 triumph over University of the East sealed their spot in the semifinals, as the Tamaraws own a superior quotient over the other teams chasing a Final 4 berth.

"Who would've thought, 'di ba, of us making it to the Final 4," said Racela after their triumph.

"Walang naniwala sa amin, except 'yung mga nandoon sa loob ng room, sa circle namin, and of course, FEU community," he added.

Veteran guard Ino Comboy, who scored 17 points in the win, revealed that they paid attention to the media predictions ahead of the season.

"And'yan 'yung mga media na nagfore-forecast sila kung ano 'yung Final 4. 'Bakit walang FEU? Ah, ganoon ha,'" he said.

"Meron pa nga akong ishe-share eh. 'Yung teammate ko, si Barkley Ebona, meron siyang winallpaper na ginawa noong isang group sa social media na parang, 'Ngiting Tagaytay or ngiting Final 4?'" Comboy further said.

Comboy did not reveal who made the meme, only that they found it on Facebook -- and found it hurtful.

"Masakit 'yun para sa amin. Kasi, parang wala ba silang tiwala sa amin, mga seniors namin? So, 'yun, 'yun 'yung naging motivation namin."

Yet even though they had plenty of doubters, the Tamaraws themselves never once doubted themselves. Comboy said that he, team captain Kenneth Tuffin, and veteran big man Ebona made sure that the team was aware of what they needed to accomplish that year, and helped ensure that FEU's streak of Final 4 appearances would continue.

"Never kami nagkaroon ng doubt. Kasi, ako, Barkley, at 'yung team captain namin na si Kenneth Tuffin, sobrang laking tiwala namin sa isa't isa," he said. "Before kami pumapasok sa school, pinag-uusapan namin 'yan na we have a big chance, big chance talaga."

All three were instrumental in FEU's turnaround in the second half of the season, and all three are determined to keep pushing the Tamaraws forward.

"As coach said, we're here now, and we're not done," said Tuffin.

"Our goal every year is really to make it to the Final 4," said Racela. "Then, we move on to the next goal. We've achieved our first goal, and next goal na kami."

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