The Games that Play Us: Growing Their Horns

Russel Escoto shoots over Jan Colina as the FEU Tamaraws
upend the Adamson Falcons to seal a championship clash
with the Ateneo de Manila Blue Eagles.
(image by Diana Moraleda/

FEU Tamaraws over the AdU Soaring Falcons, 78-74

RR Garcia and Terrence Romeo had another great tandem game, combining for 26 points, 12 rebounds and 9 assists. Big time big man Aldrech Ramos helped out, too, producing a double-double stat-line of 10 points and 12 boards.

But the biggest difference-makers are two guys who could be the future cornerstones of this program. Two newbies. Two former FEU Baby Tamaraws. Two guys growing their horns.

Due to a plethora of unforeseen circumstances, Cris (or Mike) Tolomia and Russel Escoto have been thrust into positions they probably didn’t expect. They have been given responsibilities meant for seasoned vets. They’ve been played longer than coach Bert Flores probably first envisioned when he put this squad together.

Cris Tolomia was the unlikely leading scorer who exploited
key mismatches against the Adamson Falcons.
(image by Andrew Pamorada/
There have been times the two upstarts have floundered, but not this day, not in this game, not when the Tams’ season was on the line.

The two newcomers stood toe-to-toe with Adamson’s grizzled senior statesmen. They held their own, and made some big plays that helped push the Tamaraws back into the UAAP Finals for the second year in succession.

Both stars-in-the-making filled up the stat-sheets. Tolomia unloaded 19 points behind 3 triples, 7 rebounds, 4 assists and 1 block. Escoto pumped in 10 markers, grabbed 9 caroms, had 2 steals, a block and an assist. They shot a combined 11-of-22 from the field in 53 total minutes on the hardwood.

Veteran playing time. Veteran production.

And they both have 4 more years of eligibility.

Scared yet?

Oh, but it’s not as if Adamson didn’t put up a fight here. They were, after all, the mighty second-seeds. The ones with the twice-to-beat ace up their sleeves. The team that handed Ateneo its sole loss in 15 games. The team that made history last week. The team that wore shirts emblazoned with, “Now it’s our time.”

Carl Cruz and Eric Camson have a heated exchange in
this hard-fought encounter.
(image by Diana Moraleda/
Unfortunately, the Soaring Falcons’ time is now up.

Props to coach Leo Austria, however, for bringing out the best in his boys. Super seniors Jerick Cañada, Jan Colina, Janus Lozada and Lester Alvarez bid farewell, teary-eyed, devoid of any championship décor, but replete with honor, and a myriad of memorable moments.

That fearsome foursome teamed up for 40 total points, and none bigger than Air Cañada’s string of 10 late in the fourth quarter that trimmed an 11-point deficit to just 3 with 1:24 to play. Alas, it was all for naught as the Falcons bungled their battle under the boards and allowed the Tamaraws too many chances to score.

Jerick "Air" Cañada literally saved his best for last.
(image by Diana Moraleda/
And just a week after peaking and breaking the Ateneo curse that has hounded its program for about 14 seasons, Adamson skids back to earth.

But not with a thud. Oh no. Rather, they plummet in a blaze of glory, with wings  flapping, talons clawing, in all the loud, screaming, rapture of prey bloodied but unbowed.

With Alex Nuyles and a host of up-and-coming young guns still in tow (Roider Cabrera, Austin Manyara, and Rodney Brondial should all reprise their roles in Season 75), the Falcons still have a lot of fight in them, but they’ll have to save it for next season.

The Tamaraws, on the other hand, still have this season. They fit the bill of a team “peaking at the right time.” After their classic overtime loss last August 13, they’ve won 7 of their last 8 matches to earn a rematch of last season’s championship series. And although they remain undermanned and seemingly outgunned on paper, they’ve shown they can play with the best of ‘em. Heck, they showed it here, outrebounding and outplaying the feared Falcons at the most critical times.

The FEU Tamaraws get all "bromance-ish" as they
remain alive in the race for the Season 74 crown.
(image by Diana Moraleda/
And what’s the prize they get for all their hard work?

The 14-1 Ateneo Blue Eagles. Three-time defending champs.

It’s clear whom the underdogs are, and this encounter has the makings of a memorable melee.

But that’s for another day yet.

FEU 78 – Tolomia 19, Romeo 15, Garcia 11, Ramos 10, Escoto 10, Cruz 8, Exciminiano 5, Bringas 0, Pogoy 0, Knuttel 0
AdU 74 – Cañada 14, Camson 13, Nuyles 12, Alvarez 9, Lozada 9, Colina 8, Manyara 4, Petilos 3, Brondial 2, Cabrera 0
QS: 18-14, 33-35, 57-50, 78-74

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