FEU snags bronze in Independence Day battle-for-third

FEU Advocate
June 12, 2024 19:43

By Andrei M. Barrantes

To conclude their Filoil EcoOil 17th ECJ Preseason Cup campaign, the Far Eastern University (FEU) Tamaraws edged the Colegio de San Juan de Letran (CSJL) Knights to claim the second runner-up spot, 80-78, at the Filoil EcoOil Centre in San Juan earlier today, June 12.

FEU established their dominance early on with their new triangle system from Head Coach Sean Chambers granting them open looks and free-flowing offense.

In addition to their fluid ball movement and timely passes in the perimeter, the Chambers-led squad also imposed their will on defense, blocking the Allen Ricardo-led squad’s passing lanes and initiating conversions in transition.

FEU’s stellar play granted them a comfortable lead heading into halftime, 49-38.

In the second half, Letran came stomping back with their pressure defense and offensive heroics from Jonathan Manalili.

Though FEU opted for more drives to the basket on the offensive end, their previously effective interior defense was penetrated by last minute dishes and putbacks by Letran.

The Tamaraws’ double digit lead quickly diminished, and with four and a half minutes left, the Knights took the lead, 57-59.

Despite their best efforts, FEU’s turnovers piled up, and after two lead changes, they ended the third quarter with a five-point deficit, 62-67.

In the deciding frame, Letran’s momentum was halted, thanks in part to Jon Godinez’s defensive assignment on Manalili. 

FEU disrupted their ball movement, and regained the lead thanks to a transition jumper from quarterfinals’ savior Jorick Bautista.

Senior guard Royce Alforque turned on the aggression late in the game, coming up with clutch steals and deflections, leading the Tamaraws’ fastbreaks to keep the Knights at bay.

With 43 seconds left and a two-point lead to hold, Bautista once again came in clutch, lacing a three-pointer to beat the shot clock.

After a crucial triple and a forced turnover from Letran, Manalili found himself with an open look in the corner to tie the game, which hit the top corner of the backboard.

FEU’s Omar Gordon committed a timely foul to prevent any three-point attempts.

After cutting the lead to two off Manalili going perfect in the charity stripe, a scramble for the ball ate up the remaining five seconds, icing the game, 80-78.

In the post-game conference, Coach Chambers expressed his relief in the timely adjustments the team made to overcome the pesky Knights.

“I thought it showed a little bit of our youth for a while. When they got in the zone, they kinda got us a little bit discombobulated… We were allowing our offense to affect our defense, so let’s try to turn our defense into offense.”

For Alforque, the change of mindset worked wonders for them in putting a halt on Letran’s comeback attempts.

Talagang nahirapan kami nu’ng nag-zone sila. So si Coach Sean ni-remind kami [na] hindi kami dumedepensa, mas nag-focus kami kung paano i-break ‘yung zone. So sinabihan ko rin ‘yung mga teammates ko na kaya tayo hindi nakaka-score kasi nga puro kayo nag-iisip sa opensa eh. ‘Yun, dumepensa kami, and we made a run, and ‘yun ‘yung magandang ginawa namin na hindi kami nag-quit hanggang sa final buzzer,” he added.

Alforque earned Player of the Game honors with 19 points, seven rebounds, and four assists and steals.

Bautista led the Tamaraws in scoring with 21 markers while Veejay Pre and Mo Konateh rounded off the green-and-gold cagers in double digits with 13 and 11, respectively.

Pre and Konateh wiped the glass with 10 and 21 boards to out-rebound the Knights 56 to 30.

FEU claimed the bronze award for this year’s tournament and secured an all-UAAP podium.

(Photo by Krystoffer Zyanel Bermudez/FEU Advocate)