Far Eastern University-Diliman has already done this before.
And the Baby Tamaraws just used the biggest stage, the Finals of the UAAP 79 Juniors Basketball Tournamwnt, to have an encore.
L-Jay Gonzales and Xyrus Torres did much of the heavy lifting from the bench as FEU-Diliman drew first blood against Nazareth School of National University, 66-65, on Tuesday at the San Juan Arena.
The Bullpups were in control for all of the first two minutes until coach Allan Albano sent in Gonzales and Torres to replace starters Eric Jabel and JJ Sapinit. It was at that point that the two connived to front a 22-9 tear that took a 24-18 advantage in their favor.
“Pagpasok ni L-Jay, dun bumilis yung game namin. And yun yung gusto namin,” a beaming Albano said in his post-game conference.
By halftime, the Baby Tamaraws were up by 43-34 and Gonzales already had seven points, seven rebounds, and five assists while Torres had 10 points to his name.
Of course, the defending champions kept coming and cut their once nine-point deficit to only 63-66 inside the last minute. However, both Winderlich Coyoca and Rhayyan Amsali muffed on their free throws.
Still, NU had a chance as John Lloyd Clemente converted a turnover into a fastbreak layup and at the other end, Kenji Roman missed on his charities. However, only down by one with three ticks to go, Clemente’s final heave from halfcourt fell short.
Gonzales wound up with seven points, 10 rebounds, and 10 assists and also garnered praise for his intangibles. “Siya yung nagsasalita sa huddle, nakakatuwa. Sabi niya, depensa at tumakbo tayo,” Albano shared.
Roman chimed in 12 points and eight rebounds as FEU-Diliman got a headstart on the best-of-three series.
This is the second time in the season the Baby Tamaraws have downed NU.
Clemente showed the way for the defending champions with 25 points, six rebounds, and four assists.
FEU-Diliman tries for win number three and the championship it will bring with it on Friday at the same venue.
FEU-DILIMAN 66 – Roman 12, Torres 10, Sapinit 9, Celzo 8, Abarrientos 8, Gonzales 7, Gabane 5, Jabel 2, Baclay 2, Bieren 2, Gloria 1, Mariano 0
NU 65 – Clemente 25, Coyoca 11, Amsali 10, Penano 9, Sarip 5, Manalang 3, Malonzo 2, Atienza 0, Tolentino 0, Fortea 0, Peralta 0, Callejo 0
QUARTER SCORES: 24-20, 43-34, 57-52, 66-65