Former UAAP MVP RR Garcia hit a game-winning layup with just one-tenth of a second left on the clock as the FEU Tamaraws came back to survive a tough challenge from the NU Bulldogs, 77-75, in Season 75 action of the UAAP Sunday at the SM Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City.
With the game tied at 75-apiece and one last possession in the final seconds, FEU coach Bert Flores put his trust in their MVP Garcia for a last shot to avoid going into overtime.
Things looked like they took a turn for the worse for FEU, though, as Garcia lost the ball to another MVP, NU’s Bobby Ray Parks, who had gone coast-to-coast for a huge, highlight-reel jam just two and a half minutes earlier. Parks began to run down the floor, but the ball was somehow lost in a scramble and FEU’s Roger Pogoy came up with the ball.
With about three seconds left, Pogoy pitched it right back upcourt to Garcia, who barely beat the buzzer to give FEU a huge win.
“Kasi nagkagulo sila dun eh, nawala yung bola kay Parks,” said Garcia of his decision not to go down the floor. He also showed his keen awareness on the court, saying he saw he had two seconds to shoot before he received the ball from Pogoy.
Garcia finished with 10 points, despite going scoreless in the first half, alongside nine assists while backcourt mate Terrence Romeo had 20 to pace the Tamaraws.
FEU led by six points at the half, but struggled to slow Parks and the Bulldogs down in the third quarter, giving up 29 points in the period while scoring just 16 of their own. NU led by seven points entering the fourth.
But the Tamaraws opened the final period on a 7-0 blast to tie the game, and neither team led by more than four points after that point, often just trading baskets as the game was tied yet again at 69-all with 3:32 remaining after a three-point play from FEU’s Carl Bryan Cruz.
Parks helped NU retake the lead after getting a huge block on the perimeter and running the floor for an easy uncontested dunk with just 2:31 to play in the game.
But Russel Escoto, who finished with a career-high 18 points, hit a triple to give FEU back the lead. Parks and Jeoffrey Javillonar both hit one of two on respective trips to the free throw line to take a 73-72 lead, but Romeo knocked down a huge three-pointer with just 53 seconds left.
Parks hit a pair of free throws to tie the game again at 75, before the last scramble in the endgame occurred.
Parks finished with 26 points and nine rebounds while Gelo Alolino had 18 for the Bulldogs, who fell to 6-5.
“Yung execution nung endgame, pinag-point guard ko si RR. Si Terrence naman yung catch-and-shoot, kaya maganda yung execution nung fourth quarter,” said the FEU’s Flores. “Tsaka yung execution namin nung defense, kasi binigyan namin sila ng 29 points nung third quarter. Nung endgame, fourth quarter, less touches si Rayray Parks.”
“Nung last game namin sa NU, yung last shot na yun, pagtingin ko si Rayray Parks pala tao ni Terrence. Kaya ngayon, tinanong ko siya, ‘Sino tao mo?’ Eh si Terrence si Rayray matchup niya, eh mahirap yun, mabilis kasi. Kaya kay RR ko na lang pinahawak yung last shot,” he added.
The last shot proved to be controversial, though, as NU reportedly refused to sign the official scoresheet, indicating their intention to put the game under protest. The Bulldogs have 24 hours to make it official by filing a protest.