Although cramps got the best of him in the dying seconds of the game, you still can’t take away the fact that Cotabato native Mac Belo deserves a UAAP Championship ring, moreso, a Finals MVP award.
The graduating power forward from Far Eastern University had a sharp mindset coming into today’s game.
“Mindset ko talaga ay ibigay na ang lahat dahil alam kong wala nang bukas. Nandoon ang pressure pero nag-commit ang bawat isa. Effort lang, kaya ayun, nakabalik kami.”
Belo finished the deciding game with 23 points and eight rebounds on a 7-of-13 field goal shooting.
Shadows of what transpired last season is what motivated the Tamaraws to avoid a repeat of their fate last year from the hands of the National University Bulldogs.
“Binaon na namin sa limot ‘yung nangyari last year. Ginawa lang namin ang tama, at yung mga dapat gawin sa court.”
Words are not enough to express how happy and overjoyed Belo is, as his parents flew from all the way from Cotabato to witness him lead his team to redemption.
In last year’s UAAP Finals showdown against the National University Bulldogs, the Tamaraws also won Game 1, but eventually lost the next two plus the crown to NU.
“Sobrang saya ko. Sobrang nakaka-inspire na nandito sila, lagi silang sumusuporta.”
“Mahal na mahal ko sila. Para sa kanila ito, pati sa buong FEU community.”
The soft-spoken parents of Belo could not fully express their proud feelings at the moment.
“Sobrang proud kami kay Mac dahil naabot na nya ang pangarap nya. Ginagawa nya lagi ang best nya para sa amin. Proud na proud talaga kami bilang magulang nya.”
Zamboanga native Mike Tolomia, meanwhile, also gave his fair share as he chipped in 13 points, two rebounds, and three assists in the winner-take-all match.
As a part of the team who lost to the Bulldogs in last season’s finale, Tolomia only had one thing in mind: redemption.
Being a vital piece for FEU, he knew he’d be heavily guarded by UST. The adjustments made were evident, as he managed to play more relaxed.
“Mas naging kontrolado ako ngayon. Ipinakita sa akin ni Coach [Nash] kung paano ako depensahan ng UST, kaya nakapag-adjust kami,” quipped Tolomia.
“Sobrang tatag namin. Lagi namin pinag-uusapan na kahit lamang ang kalaban, kailangan daanin namin sa depensa. Nung lumamang ang UST sa fourth, defense lang talaga. Alam namin na ganun palagi ang laban namin against UST. Hindi lang kami nag-give up, defense lang talaga.”
Roger Pogoy, who also played one hell of a series, capping off Game 3 with 14 points, six rebounds, and one assist gave back all the glory to God.
“Sobrang saya ko na kahit tapos na ang UAAP career ko, nakuha ko lang ang isang goal ko. Thank you kay Lord!”
A proud product of Talisay, Cebu, Pogoy shared some thoughts that were running through his head last night.
“Sinabi lang ni Coach na, last game na ito. Just enjoy the game. Sa mangyayari, si Jesus na ang bahal sa kalalabasan ng laro.”
Coach Nash Racela couldn’t be happier with the result. The pressure of duplicating what FEU did to UST in 1979 did not really bother the young coach.
“My initial reaction was to be thankful to the Lord. I reminded them that the victory belongs to the Lord.”
“Wala akong special message when UST was making a run. I’m a coach who coaches the moment. I just gave instructions on the defensive scheme and what to do on offense.”
What struck Coach Nash is the overflowing support of all the FEU branches. According to him, he saw banners around the venue that represented all three branches of FEU. They all contained inspiring words for the team.
Mico Halili asked Racela what makes this FEU team special.
Racela simply answered, “Special? It’s the relationship that we have with each other. Cliche as it may sound but this is a family. They put the team first ahead of themselves, especially the graduating players.”
Before the tip-off, Racela said the sight of students outside the venue still trying their luck to score tickets for the game somehow inspired them to play harder.
“I saw their concern sa team. Laking pasasalamat ko sa kanila. I hope they continue to love the team. Para sa ating [FEU Community] lahat ito.”
Aside from Belo and Pogoy, Tolomia, Achie Iñigo and Russel Escoto also bade their FEU careers goodbye.
UST will lose Kevin Ferrer, Ed Daquioag, Karim Abdul, Louie Vigil, and Sheak Sheriff to graduation.