More than the bonfire in the Sunken Garden, a fire was lit under the UP Fighting Maroons, one that they’ll look to keep alive in the second round. For the Falcons, this game was a cold splash of reality, no amount of excuses will make this game better. The league doesn’t care if you’re a team of rookies, every management at some point has had to deal with that fact, suck it up.
The list of things the Falcons did wrong goes on and on, from not breaking from the zone, not helping on weak side defense and even to not taking shots that presented themselves, it all culminates with the fact that the Falcons weren’t ready for this game, much less the season. Adamson has made history twice in a month, lowest scoring output in a game and now ending UP’s drought.
The only glimmer of hope I saw in the game was glimpses of the old system. The old system that took a flawed team into the Final Four multiple times, the system that made contenders out of what others would have brushed aside as posers. Instead of running the horns plays, the Falcons ran their offense as though Coach Leo was still with them. For the three veterans who grew and flourished under the international championship-caliber coach, their effort on the court was as if he was right there with his whiteboard on hand.
UP played a great game but it was the Falcons who let them.
Review of the Keys to the Game
They didn’t and it cost them. Throughout the game, UP was lighting it up in and around the three point arc. JR Gallarza and Mikee Reyes combined for all of UP’s made three-pointers, but they were eight crucial three pointers that depleted Adamson’s morale. Couple it with weak offside help defense, Reyes just tore Adamson apart on the drive.
A lot of UP’s points came off jump shots and putbacks. Most jumpshots coming from the gaps in the zone, putbacks were function of the rebounding advantage they have against the zone.
It was when the Falcons decided to stop zoning and start pressuring that things started to finally turn around for them. When they pressed in the final five minutes of the game, they went on a 9-0 run that put them in contention. Their lack of endgame poise ultimately did them in, but it is worth noting that had they done that earlier, UP might not be having its bonfire yet.
I said contested drives, not open drives. Both Gallarza and Reyes had career games with 24 and 28 points respectively. Gallarza was on fire with 8 of his 12 shots connecting. Reyes was going crazy on the inside blowing past defenders to get open lanes to the hoop. Aside from those two, the Maroons took turns scoring on the Falcons.
The instances when Reyes got his layups, the defender was pressuring too hard and too far. Yes, Reyes hit four threes in this game, but between him shooting off the dribble on a close-out and an open lane drive, I’d pick the jump shot any day. Eventually, Reyes caught fire and started making circus shots. That’s what happens when you allow an offense to roll uncontested.
The Falcons did a good job in this department. They weren’t throwing the ball away left and right despite passing the ball a lot. This is only speculation, but it could be because of the different offensive motion they were running.
Fans of the Falcons might recognize the set plays they ran. They were the same ones Janus Lozada, Lester Alvarez and company used to run. Instead of running their horns play, this throwback to their old form allowed for a lot more off ball movement and free-flowing motion. Notice the number of bullet passes Monteclaro was able to throw into the paint. That’s what the motion does for them.
Unfortunately, their lack of offensive and defensive effort wiped away this above average performance of taking care of the ball. UP simply shot more efficiently and shot more threes.
The Falcons played their best when they showed glimpses of the Falcons teams of the past years. They lost a leader when Jericho Cruz opted to go pro, but they found new ones this game. Ryan Monteclaro, Jansen Rios and Don Trollano are the last of the Falcons to remember what it was like to go toe to toe with the big boys. The three of them might not be skilled enough to lift the team on their own, but after the show they put up in this game, there is no doubt that they have the heart of a Falcon everyone loves. Come second round, the Falcons will do well running their offense around those three. They can still remember what it’s like to be a contender, it’s up to the rookies to make sure they don’t forget.