View from the Enemy: Ateneo de Manila Blue Eagles
Whenever you’re given the opportunity to beat the defending champions, you take it, say, “thank you”, bow down three times (Chinese prayer reference) and FRIGGIN BEAT THE DEFENDING CHAMPIONS!
The last time Adamson won against Ateneo was in September 10, 2011. It ended Ateneo’s 13-game winning streak that season, it forced a Final Four scenario and it broke Adamson’s 29-game losing streak against the other blue and white team. Adamsonians who attended that game still remember who they were with, what they were wearing and where they sat in the Coliseum (I missed my awarding to cover this game). This was the last bright spot for Adamsonians in a long time, and now there is a chance to relive the joy of BEATING ATENEO!
Yeah, they aren’t the same team they were two seasons ago when Coach Norman Black was still calling the shots, implementing his “no yabang” policy. No more Greg Slaughter , no Nico Salva, not even the Ateneo rookie whose debut game against Adamson was a 0-point outing (Kiefer Ravena) will be in Sunday’s game. True, Ateneo won’t be at their best come Sunday, missing star guard Kiefer Ravena for their third straight game. Ryan Buenafe, the former finals MVP has given the Eagles moments of brilliance… and shot them in the foot as well. Whatever the case, Adamson has always seen playing Ateneo as a big game.
In this battle of the birds, the Falcons smell blood and will be itching to pounce at it hard and fast.
Keys to the Game
Get that rebound
Win or lose, the Falcons have been able to out-rebound their opponents in every game they have played so far. This is thanks in large part to the big man in the paint, Ingrid Sewa who would get the rebound, smile at his defender and then BOOM! big dunk. In all three games they have played so far, the Falcons averaged 52 rebounds a game, all while allowing only an average of 31.6 boards for their opponents. Ateneo on the other hand, has only out-rebounded their opponent in one game (FEU 51-47) with most of the load shouldered by a single “designated” rebounder each game (either Ryan Buenafe or Chris Newsome). This is in stark contrast to Adamson’s front-court which, after three games, at least two Falcons have averaged double figures in rebounding, Sewa (10.3) and Rodney Brondial (11.3) (who according to a certain website owner, “isn’t a strong rebounder. He’s not bad, but he’s not good.”).
Only Rodney Brondial, Roider Cabrera, Janses Rios, Mike Agustin and Harry Petilos were Falcons when Adamson ended their streak against Ateneo two seasons ago. Now, it’s up to the Brondial led crew with Jericho Cruz and a lot of newbies to make sure the streak ends at 2. Like any good weight loss diet, long periods of hunger is bad, short spurts are more advisable.
There was a certain intensity from the Falcons that September afternoon, one that allowed them to go 100% from the freethrow line, a feat not really expected of them. The Falcons have to revive that intensity and bring it to the court again on Sunday if they want to win.
Bald vs. White
Unity will be key for both teams on both ends. The Eagles have shaved their heads while the Adamsonian crowd will create a sea of white in MOA Arena, reminiscent of that September afternoon. The Falcons can’t be too confident and start trying to style and profile at the expense of the game. Yes, Ateneo isn’t at its strongest, but it doesn’t mean Ateneo can’t beat them. On offense, the Falcons have to repeat what they did in the first half against UE, find open shooters, attack open lanes and get those rebounds. On defense they have to make Ateneo believe they have no other option than forcing Buenafe to hit one from outside. Newsome will be a tough man to handle for the Falcons as he went on an offensive tear against DLSU with 11 of 12 shooting.
Coach Leo is arguably the best coach in the UAAP right now. He was a decorated point guard during his playing days and is now a champion coach. No matter what happens in the first half, the players MUST listen to his adjustments when they head into the locker room for the halftime break. Doing otherwise cost them their game against UST, while doing just that allowed them to bust open mid-way through the 3rd quarter against UE. Ateneo won’t have the luxury of Coach Black’s famous halftime adjustments, so Adamson should be able to take full advantage of this.
Ice them down
The Eagles will run, they will definitely make a run at one point of the game. The Falcons have to douse whatever fire builds for Ateneo. Either answer back, slow it down or simply stop them, the Falcons cannot let Ateneo go out of control. Right now, Ateneo is full of streaky players who can burst out in runs, Adamson has to make sure they don’t catch fire, or at least don’t catch too much fire. If they can stop this from happening, they will be on their way to win number three.
Brondial vs. Buenafe
This battle will come down to the veterans of the teams. Buenafe is a former finals MVP and has tasted championship after championship throughout his UAAP career. Rodney Brondial is a laid back, reggae loving veteran center who, like a Rastafarian with the munchies, is extremely hungry for a championship. While Ryan Buenafe has been the driving force of his team, Brondial has laid back and allowed his teammates to excel around him. With tweets from Brondial which read, “i’ll be back soon. . .#focus” Adamsonian hopefuls can bet he’s got a LOT more up his sleeve (than his 13.5 rebounds per game). Expect both of them to fight for points and rebounds in the paint.
Just as Ryan Monteclaro said as he was pulling his car out of the gates of the Saint Vincent Building, “WE’RE GOING TO WIN IT!”