It took some time, but the Falcons finally put the pieces together for a win.
Even with Cruz sitting the game out due to fatigue, the Falcons had enough firepower to notch up the win against a hungry UP squad. Different names stepped up for the Falcons as they learned to win without their main scorer.
Review of the Keys to the Game
They hit fast and they hit hard. Since they lacked the playmaking ability of Cruz on the floor, the Falcons were forced to move the ball fast and aggressively. The only hiccup I saw was that without Cruz, their main scorers became the two long-range bombers, which isn’t the most sustainable means of offense in the UAAP.
They made do with their energy to start the game, Cabrera hit a few in the first quarter, then Trollano came in at the second quarter to pick up where Cabrera left off. After the half, neither of them could hit any long-range shots. It was a good thing that they started to veer away from the two by then.
Even without Cruz, the Falcons still had viable scoring options that worked efficiently. Ingrid Sewa was able to dominate the paint to 18 points on 6 of 10 shooting. More surprisingly, Jansen Rios was the most efficient scorer for the Falcons this game marking up 16 points on 8 attempts. That’s a True Shooting percentage of 90% and a scoring efficiency of two points per field goal made. For someone commonly regarded as a role player, that’s big.
UP was very conservative with their three-pointers. Fortunately for the Falcons, they were ready to challenge every shot UP attempted at the paint.
Even at quarters when fatigue and bench minutes started to come into play, UP’s field goal numbers dropped as a result of just not being able to find anything on offense. The only Maroon in double digits was Raul Soyud who did his damage from the free throw line.
Ingrid Sewa had a double-double 18 points and 15 rebounds in 28 minutes. Keeping him fresh and on the floor in spurts did wonders for his production this game. It also helped that the Falcons didn’t need to have Sewa on the floor at all times as Rodney Brondial, despite not making a single basket, grabbed 17 rebounds for his team. So there was no hurry to get Sewa back on the floor until he was ready to dominate again.
The only Falcon to play at least 30 minutes in the game were Rodney Brondial and Roider Cabrera. Everyone else sat out at least one quarter each. Nine different players spent at least 10 minutes on the floor. Coach Leo Austria did a good job switching the Falcons in and out to keep them fresh. Brondial and Cabrera, despite spending a lot of time on the floor, needed those minutes. Brondial could take the minutes, while Cabrera needed to find ways to operate even when his shooting touch fails him.
I choose you!
There were stretches where Cabrera and Trollano were on the floor at the same time, but they addressed the problem by ironing out their roles. Only one of them was taking the outside shots during their stints, the other one was looking for ways to score inside. This helped the floor spacing of the Falcons as it gave cutters like Rios enough room to operate leading to his 7 of 8 field goals. They still don’t have an offensive one-two punch like in the olden days nor do they have the same ball movement.
The Falcons have become a very different team from that lineup that got them their first twice-to-beat advantage. The old poised swagger Nuyles, Lozada and Alvarez had has been replaced by a toughness and grit led by the “Kamikaze”-driver Jericho Cruz. If the Falcons are to succeed in the future, they have to own up to this new team they are and understand that they’re not going to win games with fancy moves anymore. This tough fought battle against UP should serve as a reminder that games are won on fundamentals, putting your shoulder down and getting to the hoop, nothing else. Furthermore, they are guided by the best coach in the league today, all the players have to really do is listen. In Coach We Trust.