MANILA -- Instead of pointing fingers and engage players in a full dress down, Far Eastern University (FEU) came up with a plain and simple consolation to their spoiled success in the 73rd University Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP) men’s basketball tournament.

Athletic director Mark Molina said that a team’s chance to bag the crown banks on experience, preparation, hardwork, and the relentless desire to win the title.

“In Game 1, we just don’t know how to react but in this game, we played much better. Unfortunately, the championship experience is the one lacking in our team. I have to congratulate Ateneo because they really showed poise during the championship series,” he told reporters.

Ateneo booked its fourth finals appearance in five seasons, the catch all statement that validated Molina’s point.

Thursday’s nip-and-tuck affair buoyed well for the Tamaraws at first, when they managed to dictate the game’s tempo in the opening frame and in the early minutes of the second quarter.

Paul Sanga, season MVP Ryan Roose Garcia, bigman Reil Cervantes and top rookie Terrence Romeo take turns in shutting down Ateneo’s offense, leading as many as 11 points with 8:41 remaining in the second quarter that rocked fans in the left side of the Araneta Coliseum.

The celebration, however, became premature as the title-conscious Blue Eagles came back to their senses and sharpened their claws to pull the rug from the Tamaraws in the last four minutes.

Halftime score showed 31-30 in favor of FEU but the seesaw encounter in the last two quarters and the Morayta-based squad’s end game slips took its toll.

“We won a lot of close games in the elimination round and we thought that it could help us in beating Ateneo. (Paul) Sanga missed a trey; (RR) Garcia also missed a trey, all in the last four minutes. (Reil) Cervantes missed a jumper that could have turn the game sideways, and four missed free throws by Aldrech Ramos and Sanga cost us much,” narrated Molina.

“If we were able to make two or three of those shots, the tide of the game could have changed. We could have won,” he added. (Virgil Lopez/Sunnex)