It was not pretty by any means, but perennial contender Far Eastern U breathed new life to its UAAP Season 85 campaign with a much-needed two-game winning streak to end an unpredictable first round in the men’s basketball tournament.
Down in the doldrums with a 0-5 start for their worst in the Final Four era, the Tamaraws who own the UAAP’s longest active playoff streak (eight straight seasons) stayed locked in and strung a couple of big wins with a 75-60 rout of University of Santo Tomas, followed by a gritty 47-44 upset over former top-ranked team National University.
Leading the comeback in that stretch is Bryan Sajonia, who helped carry the Tamaraws’ languishing offense with 23 points on a perfect 9-of-9 clip inside the arc against the Growling Tigers and 12 points as the game’s lone double-digit scorer versus the Bulldogs.
His two-game averages of 17.5 points on 45% shooting, 3.0 rebounds and 1.5 assists in under 26 minutes of play proved to be enough to earn him the nod as the Collegiate Press Corps UAAP Player of the Week presented by San Miguel Corporation and the Philippine Sports Commission.
The scrappy Sajonia leapfrogged a loaded cast of candidates featuring Adamson’s Jerom Lastimosa, Ateneo’s Dave Ildefonso, University of the Philippines’ Carl Tamayo, and NU’s Steve Nash Enriquez for the weekly honor deliberated upon by print and online media regularly covering the league, and also backed by MNL Kingpin, Tinapayan Festival and Jockey as minor sponsors.
“Masaya kami dahil nakuha namin ang first win namin. Malaking epekto sa amin ang FEU community na sumusuporta sa amin. Masaya kami, siguro para sa amin, nakuha na namin ang break namin sa mga upcoming games pa,” Sajonia said.
“Ang sinabi lang naman ni coach Olsen [Racela] is maging confident kami [sa] lahat ng tira namin and magtiwala sa isa’t isa. ‘Wag kami mag kanya-kanya. Dahil sa losing streak namin, kailangan naming mas maging buo as a team talaga.”
As FEU revived its playoff drive in the nick of time at the tailend of the first round, fans from Morayta for sure hope the worst is over as the Tamaraws (2-5) head into the second round in the thick of the race with only a game behind the Final Four picture.