Denok Miranda and the FEU Tamaraws are winless no more in UAAP Season 86.

Victories were actually close, but not close enough for the Tamaraws as either their rallies fell short or leads were blown. The losses must have been frustrating to say the least and it was obvious that FEU was itching to break the cycle against the ADMU Blue Eagles.

A 15-point lead wasn’t enough to put the Blue Eagles away in regulation as Ateneo made an 18-3 run to force overtime. The Tamaraws must have shaken off the war flashbacks that came following their 80-76 overtime loss to the UP Fighting Maroons as LJay Gonzales took matters into his own hands.

To say the 66-61 victory came at the right time might be a cruel twist of fate for ADMU, who may not want to encounter a team with a familiar tormentor in Miranda.

At 1-4, FEU are obviously not where they want to be. Having arguably the most experienced backcourt in Gonzales, Xyrus Torres, James Tempra, Royce Alforque, and Patrick Sleat should have carried them to a few more victories. A storied program like the Tamaraws has typically been defined by excellent backcourts, which over the years have produced PBA stars and key members of Gilas Pilipinas.

Year One under a new system and a lack of depth in the frontcourt with the departure of Brian Sajonia certainly contributed to FEU’s early season struggles, as the peers ahead of them have gotten bigger and more experienced in the frontcourt. Perimeter shooting can help even things up for the Tamaraws, but FEU’s 3-point shooting has thus far been subpar. In their win against the Blue Eagles, the Tamaraws only made four of their 28 3-point attempts, a development that obviously won’t strike fear into the hearts of their opponents. 

It might be too early to say that FEU turned a corner with the first victory over Ateneo, but the Tamaraws have a manageable schedule to close out the first round against the short-handed AdU Soaring Falcons and the still-winless UST Growling Tigers. Even without star Jerom Lastimosa, though, the Soaring Falcons’ next-man-up mentality kept them at pace with the league leaders. Meanwhile, the Growling Tigers continue to search for that elusive victory, and FEU would not want to be the team that gives UST its first win.

Running through Gonzales is a great place to start for the Tamaraws, as at this point, the graduating senior has seen anything and everything the UAAP could offer. His big-game shotmaking has been there through the ups and downs and his chemistry with Torres, Tempra, Alforque, and Sleat could help FEU win some close games.

Denok Miranda and the FEU Tamaraws finally got a taste of victory in UAAP Season 86 and they’re out for more. With that out of the way, the focus is now towards the uphill climb to a Final Four run, one that could either be made easier or more difficult depending on how they navigate through these next few games.