MANILA, OCTOBER 3, 2003 (STAR) By Joey Villar  - Far Eastern U imposed its will and simply outclassed Ateneo in all fronts, running away with an 83-65 rout yesterday and moving within a victory from clinching the UAAP men’s basketball crown for the first time in six years at the Araneta Coliseum.

Save for a shaky start, the Tams dominated the Eagles with their awesome firepower and completely unsettled the Loyola-based cagers behind their imposing big men and a pesky man-to-man defense.

True, the Tams came into the game fresh from a week-long break and the Eagles hardly had the time to relax and were visibly spent from their two-game joust with arch-rivals La Salle Archers. But FEU simply played the brand of game it was expected to dish out and disposed of Ateneo with relative ease in a victory that might have hinted at a lopsided title series after an exciting Final Four.

The Tams, who last won the UAAP crown in 1997, gun for the clincher on Sunday.

Koy Banal likewise put one over his more illustrious brother, Joel, as he shuffled his men with a magician’s touch, especially in defense that proved to be their best offense.

"Offense will leave you but defense will stay there forever. And that was how we did it today," said Koy.

Wiry Arwind Santos did the most damage as he sizzled with 17 points, plucked 15 rebounds, blocked two shots and intimidated the Eagles with his imposing presence in a superb all-around effort that put the Tamaraws on the crest of dethroning the defending champions.

Fellow sophomore RJ Rizada, a former Ateneo de Davao student, also shone for the Tams in the second half where he pumped all his 15 points in a stretch that shut the lights out of the Eagles.

Lording it over the boards with impunity, operating in the shaded lane with authority and scoring practically at will from the perimeter and the three-point range, the Tams silenced the Eagles — and their diehards — in a long, long stretch and led by as many as 19 points, 62-43.

In defense, the Tams proved to be equally unforgiving as they shackled the Eagles with their pressure defense that forced a series of turnovers which they converted into the points to pull away for good.

For awhile, the Eagles, with ace playmaker LA Tenorio back in harness, played with the same enthusiasm and intensity in their 74-68 victory over the Archers last Tuesday and roared to a mighty start that saw them sit on a 21-10 cushion in the early going.

But Koy Banal ordered a clampdown on key Ateneo gunners and the result was a nightmare for the Eagles, who ran into a tough FEU defense and turned the ball over more than they could shoot.

Despite the presence of Tenorio, the Eagles fumbled, stumbled and had 26 turnovers, which the Tams translated into 33 big points. Tenorio struggled for seven points in the face of the leech-like defense of Rhagnee Sinco, Dennis Miranda and Rizada, who alternated on him majority of the game.

"We know they’re going to rely on Tenorio so we did our assignment on him," said Koy, whose last finals stint was in 2000 when he steered the Tams to the championship round against eventual champion La Salle.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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