The season ender just couldn’t come soon enough for these Falcons.
Ending the season meant their chance to finally get back onto the drawing board and regroup away from the hot limelight. It also meant the end to their miserable play which resulted in a 25-point outing. Most importantly, ending the season meant their one and only win, the single bright spot in the darkest season the Falcons have seen since Coach Leo commanded the Jerick Canada–Lester Alvarez duo.
By quotient, the Falcons finished Season 77 dead last, behind the long-struggling UP Fighting Maroons. They hit an all-time low by setting the lowest scoring output in the history of UAAP, and then closely matching it by losing to a win-starved Maroons, igniting hopes for better times for the Maroons and triggering drastic measure for the Falcons.
How they got to the bottom can be attributed to different factors, factors that independently should not be too much a bother for any other team, but together created an amalgamation of materials so dense and heavy that it sank rock bottom in a flash.
A lot of the blame for this year’s failures went to the fact that majority of the players are greenhorns. Rookies, new recruits and call-ups from team B. Out of the 16 players on the Falcons roster, only five of them were carry-overs from last season’s lineup. As expected, the veterans, or at least those who have played at least two seasons with them, did the heavy lifting for the Falcons.
The top scorers for the Falcons this year were the midcourt combo of Don Trollano and Jansen Rios. They averaged 15.8 and 12.1 points respectively, unfortunately they were the only players to average double-digits for their team.
Thrust into the go-to spotlight on offense, these two former role players didn’t have it in them to lift the giant burden carried by the likes of Lester Alvarez and Alex Nuyles and until a few weeks before starting the season, Jericho Cruz. Working with a raw system didn’t help either as teams handily strangled the Falcons offense, making them rely on isolation plays which nobody was good at.
As a team the Falcons were the second slowest team in the league next to eventual champions NU Bulldogs, but don’t be fooled, that slow pace in no way helped them. In Season 74, the Falcons won 11 games in the season including the sole loss of Ateneo, by playing at the slowest pace that season. While NU played slow, they made up for it by locking down of defense. The Season 74 Falcons were on top of the efficiency scale, more than making up for the slow pace. The Season 77 Falcons could do neither.
They neither defended well nor scored well. They averaged 56.7 points a game (lowest in the league) and allowed 71.1 points a game (second highest in the league). Without a solid system for them to run, their half-court game was absent. Shots came few and far in between during games, often accidental, sometimes incidental.
With the untested, inexperienced PBA great Kenneth Duremdes at the helm, the Falcons were learning the ropes as they went. In their first few games they ran a variation of the horns offense which they couldn’t execute well, marking utter demise on offense. This led to an average of 32.1 percent FG% (lowest in the league) and 17.7 trips to the free throw line (seventh in the league) caused by all the jump shots they took and drives they weren’t getting.
To make matters worse only the duo of Trollano and Rios averaged more than 20 minutes a game. Most of the time, the coaching staff was shuffling their cards hoping and praying that any combination would work. When none did, they resorted to burning out their only reliable players, putting them in extended minutes, at times reaching the high 30’s just to stay competitive.
Without a preseason tournament, the Falcons simply felt like fish out of water throughout the season. They finally got their act together with their win over UP but the damage had been done.
Now that the season is over, the Falcons can go back to the drawing board, re-think their lineup and their game plan and hopefully improve on what has been an expected dark season. Unlike other teams, calling for an overhaul of the system will hurt this team as a change in management is what got them there in the first place. A whole new system, a whole new coaching staff and a new basketball philosophy will have to be sold to young men donning the blue and white next season. Until then, the Falcons need to take Season 77 as a reminder of just how bad it can be and do everything in their power to stay away from it.