Raymar Jose urged his Far Eastern University teammates to keep the fire burning as they look to beat Ateneo again in Wednesday’s do-or-die UAAP Final Four match at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Jose, running on fumes, turned in a game to remember with 20 points and 23 rebounds in leading the Tamaraws back from a 10-point fourth quarter deficit to stun the twice-to-beat Blue Eagles, 62-61, on Saturday at the Mall of Asia Arena.
Moments after the final buzzer sounded, the FEU skipper, determined to end his collegiate career with another title, called a huddle to remind fellow players the tasks needed in order to advance to a third straight finals and a date with the La Salle Green Archers.
“Una sa lahat, magtulungan tayo at magpakita tayo ng effort,” Jose told his teammates. “Kung anu ang sinasabi ni coach (Nash Racela) sundin natin, gusto ko walang selfish sa team at lalaban tayo kahit anung mangyari.”
His rebounding numbers, rarely seen for a local big man, was so impressive that he grabbed 11 during the fourth, with eight coming in the last five minutes.
But aside from his dominance on the boards, Jose went for looseballs when needed, going back to the role he had last season when FEU won the championship with Mac Belo, Mike Tolomia and Roger Pogoy, among others, playing the lead roles.
“Jose did more than enough on the defensive end, not allowing us to get the offensive rebounds,” said Ateneo center Isaac Go. “He went back to his old roots.”
Jose’s heroics proved to be timely for an FEU team that suffered a three-game losing skid in between seven straight wins and a come-from-behind victory over University of the East on the last game of the eliminations.
Adding more dilemma on the situation was that the Tamaraws fell to No. 3 against the Blue Eagles, who they failed to beat during the double-round eliminations.
“Para sa akin, naisip ko na last year ko na to at kailangan i-motivate ko sarili ko dahil di na pwede na ganito kami sa Final Four,” said Jose, who is nicknamed “Toto.”
Toto wasn’t the only player who stepped up in the most crucial game of FEU’s season.
Monbert Arong, who struggled during the losing skid and for the most part against Ateneo, revved up his game in the fourth quarter as he made his layups and converted his free throws, while Prince Orizu was almost as dominant as Jose on the boards.
“Every player really contributed to the cause, from the first player to the 16th player,” said Racela. “Wala akong naalala na hindi ko pinasok na hindi nakapagbigay ng contribution and that’s what we need, especially going into the next game.” (Jonas Terrado)