So… Are the Falcons contenders in your eyes yet?
In what was probably the longest game both these teams will play in the elimination rounds, the Adamson Soaring Falcons pushed the DLSU Green Archers near the brink of defeat. Coming within two points in the final minutes, the Falcons gave the Archers their first real scare all season long. And like all great games, the best was forced out of both teams.
After getting blown out by DLSU in round one, Adamson executed a game plan that saw them win two of the game’s four quarters, and tie another one. Unfortunately, that’s not how basketball is won, and in the quarter they lost, the second period, they lost big.
Let’s take a deeper dive into what went wrong there.
2nd quarter woes
Most noticeable in the second quarter is the free throw disparity. Adamson committed a total of 10 fouls this quarter as opposed to the three by DLSU. This resulted in a clear advantage for the Archers, who trooped to the line nine times, while the Falcons didn’t get a single charity.
Another telling stat is the number of turnovers Adamson committed that quarter. By giving the ball up nine times, they allowed DLSU to get seven points off miscues. Going the other way, they only forced five errors, and got a mere two points as a result.
A big factor for DLSU’s dominance in this period was Ben Mbala, was mostly run amok, unopposed by Adamson. Papi Sarr, Adamson’s main center and defensive anchor, played a grand total of 0.17 minutes this quarter, forcing the team to go small.
Sarr sitting due to foul trouble turned out to be disastrous. With him riding the bench, they couldn’t stop DLSU’s drives, allowing 16 inside points. Adamson’s options were limited to giving up a foul or shaking their heads, as La Salle players waltzed through the shaded lane.
It also led to a rebounding deficit, with DLSU doubling up on Adamson’s 10 offensive rebounds. Adamson was so bereft of a front line, that they were forced to turn to third-stringer Jonathan Ballon. To his credit, he tried really, really hard not to mess up, and finished with an offensive rebound and a block in 4.17 minutes. That’s something, right?
3rd Quarter Stalemate
The third quarter was a totally different story. With Papi Sarr back in the game, the Falcons gave DLSU hell. The way this quarter went, the Falcons should have been up big had it not been for Ricci Rivero stepping up and rescuing the Archers.
Look at their eFG% numbers this quarter and you’ll notice a huge gap:
So, DLSU logged a 61.11% eFG this quarter. Isn’t this extremely high? Doesn’t this mean that they were red hot from the field?
Sure, Ricci Rivero, along with Justine Baltazar and Andrei Caracut, were, as the trio combined to make all eight of their field goal attempts. But Adamson’s dominance in this quarter didn’t come from the field. It came from the free throw line.
With 7:30 left in the third quarter the Archers committed their fifth team foul, opening up the flood gates for a wave of free throws that threw them off their game and allowed Adamson to tie them in the quarter, despite Jerrick Ahanmisi and Papi Sarr being the only Falcons to make at least one field goal.
Adamson posted an incredible 76.9% free throw rate in this quarter, but the Falcons that trooped to the line often left meat on the bone. A total of five Adamson players shot free throws, and all of them missed at least one. Poor Jonathan Espeleta missed both.
Getting to the line stifled DLSU’s defense, and in a way, their offense, which feeds off the mayhem their defense causes. Unable to push and shove the Adamson players, DLSU had to resort to efficiency, which came in the form of Rivero hitting everything he threw up.
In a way, Adamson found a way to bring some order to the mayhem. By leveraging DLSU’s overly-aggressive defense and getting them into the penalty early, DLSU had to pick their poison: throttle back their aggressiveness on D, or send Adamson to the line. That said, the Archers still outscored the Falcons 8-3 in turnover points in this period, but at least Adamson was able to play them to a draw.
Fourth Quarter Revelations
In the fourth quarter, the Falcons threw everything they had at the Archers resulting in the closest the Falcons would get to re-taking the lead since the end of the first quarter.
Two key players came through in this quarter. Jerrick Ahanmisi showed the UAAP just how much he trusts his three-point shot, sinking two from beyond the arc, with one coming as a pull-up triple in transition.
Another player was Sean Manganti, who for the most part, held his own quite well against the towering bigs of DLSU. Before fouling out, Manganti was able to corral five rebounds, to reduce DLSU’s second chances. At the same time, he provided some firepower for the Falcons, forcing the defense to collapse, opening space for Ahanmisi and other shooters. Combined, he and Papi Sarr delivered 12 points.
The moment Manganti fouled out, Ben Mbala immediately smelled the blood in the water, and took it to Dawn Ochea and Sarr, Dawn because he was much smaller, Sarr because he was nursing four fouls and couldn’t afford to pick up his fifth.
So, what was key to earning the four-point fourth quarter victory?
Adamson showed that when they want to, they can ramp up the intensity just as much as DLSU can. The mayhem DLSU causes shows results in aggregate. It’s not a giant wave of defense that hits teams, it’s the constant pushing and pulling of turbulent tides that eventually wears teams down. But Adamson showed it was capable of weathering storms.
The Falcons slapped on the patented Pumaren full-court press the entire quarter. Sure there were some slip-ups, but it generally worked. DLSU had to get their points from the line, while others were forced to up their game and make sure their long bombs hit. Had it not been for Kib Montalbo and Aljun Melecio’s three-pointers, the Archers would have been in a lot more trouble.
When Leonidas led his 300 Spartans (and more slaves) to the “Hot Gates,” they didn’t come back. The only victory they managed was to show how skill, terrain management and strategy could hold off a tidal wave of soldiers. The Persian arrows may have blotted out the sun, but before the fighting ended, it took everything they had to wipe out such a small army, showing that even a god-king could bleed.
Like the Spartans, this was technically not a victory for the Falcons. They were out-played and out-hustled in the game. More importantly, they were out-scored. But they showed the UAAP that there is a way to bring order to the mayhem. They showed that DLSU can be beaten
Unfortunately, unlike Greek city-states, UAAP teams can’t unite to beat DLSU, so it seems DLSU will continue steamrolling through the tournament. As for Adamson? It’s all downhill from here until the Final Four. The toughest game they have to play is done. All they need is to sweep the rest of their opponents and brace for a step-ladder format.
After this valiant stand, I think it removes any doubt whether or not the Falcons belong in the Final Four. It’s just a matter of determining where they’ll sit.