by Jonas Terrado
University of the East coach Boycie Zamar found parallel to the tragedy that happened in Cebu recently to his team’s 98-94 double overtime loss to Far Eastern University last Sunday.
Though the reference was not intentional and surely does not compare with the real tragedy in Cebu where more than 80 lives were lost, Zamar described the setback in these words: “Kung baga sa akin e tragedy ang nangyari e. Malapit ka na sa pier, nabangga ka at lumubog ka pa.”
Zamar could not hide his disappointment at having lost the game when clearly it was there for the taking.
The Red Warriors led 84-77 with 23 seconds left in the first overtime and the whole UE gallery was jumping with joy.
But FEU was not willing to let the game slip away, engineering an improbable comeback capped off by a three-point shot by Mike Tolomia with four seconds left in the first overtime to level the score at 85-all to force another extension.
In the second overtime period, UE again led, 91-87, but the Warriors lost steam from there and FEU eventually prevailed, 98-94.
Zamar said the Warriors melted under pressure and blamed lack of mental toughness for the loss.
“If you want to make the Final Four, if you want to make the finals and if you want to be a champion team, you have to be mature enough. It’s all about mental toughness,” Zamar said.
FEU, on the other hand, was celebrating its improbable win, coming as it did without its star player, RR Garcia, who was suspended one game for committing two consecutive unsportsmanlike conducts.
The win also came after the team lost a 17-point lead in the final quarter of regulation. Had the Tamaraws lost the game despite this lead, it would been a truly deflating moment for the team which had lost two straight after sweeping the first round unbeaten in seven games.
“Games like this will make you stronger,” said FEU coach Nash Racela who looked as exhausted as his players after the ordeal.
“And to think that RR (Garcia) wasn’t there,” he added, savoring the badly-needed win.
Terrence Romeo was there for the Tamaraws who responded with a career-high 30 points that earned him UAAP player of the week honors.
With the win, FEU kept the lead at 8-2 while preventing a tie for the top spot with idle National University (7-3).
On the other hand, instead of a 6-3 record, UE fell to a fourth-place tie with Ateneo at 5-4. It’s a loss that may haunt the Red Warriors for sometime, and surely, it was a momentum breaker as UE had won its last four games.