The FEU Tamaraws remain in the hunt for the coveted fourth seed after disposing the NU Bulldogs, 79-74, Sunday at the Araneta Coliseum.
With the win, FEU has tied the UP Fighting Maroons with a 7-6 record, as the race for the last seat in the Final Four gets tighter.
"We're still in the hunt, we're still not in the Final Four. So we need one more win," FEU coach Olsen Racela said.
Arvin Tolentino had 16 points and six rebounds and Kenneth Tuffin provided 15 points and five boards. The Tamaraws went to town from beyond the arc, attempting 39 triples and knocking down 12. They also relied on the strength of their roster, collecting 31 bench points.
But FEU nearly lost control of the game in the second half. A herculean effort from John Lloyd Clemente gave the Bulldogs a fighting chance. The rookie standout scored 38 points, the most by any player this season, 21 points coming in the pivotal third period.
After being down by as much as 16 points, the Bulldogs were able to cut it to six points with less than 30 seconds remaining. Momentum was on their side and had the chance to get closer but a costly turnover from Troy Rike doomed NU's hopes.
Aside from Clemente's historic performance, Dave Ildefonso was the only other Bulldog who reached double-figures with 12 while adding 10 rebounds and seven assists.
NU has now lost four straight games and remains in seventh place with a 3-10 record. The Bulldogs hope to close out the season with a win when they take on the UE Red Warriors in their final game.
FEU, on the other hand, needs to win their matchup against the Adamson Falcons to improve their chances of claiming a postseason berth. Should the Tamaraws lose, they have to hope that UP also tastes defeat in its last game. In case the two teams end up with identical 7-7 records at the end of the eliminations, a playoff game will take place to determine the fourth seed.
"Hopefully we're gaining momentum, and we hope we get one more to force a playoff, depending on what happens in the other games, [or to get] outright entry. But so far, these boys are playing really well the past two games," shared Racela. "Except for Clemente's explosion, they really followed our defensive game plan. So hopefully we can sustain that in our last game."
FEU 79 - Tolentino 16, Tuffin 15, Gonzales 9, Stockton 7, Parker 6, Inigo 6, Orizu 6, Bienes 5, Ebona 4, Comboy 3, Bayquin 2, Cani 0, Escoto 0
NU 74 - Clemente 38, Ildefonso D 12, Diputado 4, Yu 4, Rike 2, Aquino 2, Tibayan 2, Galinato 2, Gallego 2, Salim 2, Gaye 2, Ildefonso S 1, Malonzo 1, Joson 0, Sinclair 0
QUARTER SCORES: 19-18, 44-28, 69-61, 79-74
-- The 38 points from Clemente is the most by an NU player since Jeff Napa's 43-point production back in 2002. He is also tied with Kiefer Ravena for the third most points scored in a single game since 2003.
-- Prince Orizu played his first game back for the Tamaraws after missing out their last three games due to an ankle injury.
FEU - Nov. 18 (Sun) vs Adamson Falcons at Mall of Asia Arena
NU - Nov. 18 (Sun) vs UE Red Warriors at Mall of Asia Arena