View from the Enemy: Adamson Soaring Falcons
As cliché as it may sound, when you are at the rock bottom, there is definitely no way but up. Up and high. And hopefully high enough to reach the top four.
Such is the case of the University of the Philippines Fighting Maroons as they begin their UAAP Season 76 campaign against host Adamson University Soaring Falcons on Sunday, June 30 at Mall of Asia Arena.
Finishing eighth and dead last for the past four seasons, UP will attempt to surge back to relativity and open the season on a winning note against the team they have not defeated since 2008.
With the departure of eight key players from last season, including team’s leading scorer Mike Silungan and versatile wingman Mark Lopez, they have recalibrated the roster with young and talented newcomers including some second generation stars. Top-billing these newcomers is UP’s prodigal son Sam Marata, nephew of former professional baller Ricric Marata. Sam, who was a juniors MVP with UPIS and played three seasons with La Salle Green Archers, will be expected to be the focal point of the offense of this rookie-laden team. UP has to rely also on their prized recruits and future cornerstones in 2013 MMTLBA MVP Kyles Lao, 2011 CESAFI Juniors MVP Andres Desiderio, youth team standout Kyle Suarez, and big man Andre Paras, son of basketball legend and former King Maroon Benjie Paras.
On the other side, Adamson, who was two wins away from bagging the title in 2011, will be spearheaded by shooting guard Jericho Cruz along with the blue-collar worker Rodney Brondial. Making their UAAP debut are 6’9” Cameroonian Ingrid Sewa and former San Beda Red Cub Axel Iñigo.
Keys to the Game
Start strong. In the two occasions they met last season, Fighting Maroons were like a diesel-powered engine; that is they start the game sluggishly. Prove to that is they only averaged 13.5 first quarter points in the 2 games as opposed to Falcons’ 26.5.
UP has to stop trying to be like an action star – taking heavy blows from the opponents at first and then fights back and retaliates with all their might. But the problem is that UP lacks the finishing touches to beat the opponents down, as they fell short on the closing minutes of the games last season.
There is no question that they can score in bunches but they play aggressively right from the tip-off so they won’t be digging their own grave.
Snag the rebounds. UP was outrebounded by 13 in each of the two games last season against Adamson. The task to crash the boards won’t be easier this time. The depleted, as Paolo Romero might miss the season with ACL injury, and not-so-tall frontcourt of the Fighting Maroons has to grind it out with Sewa and the tireless Brondial (who looks like the long-lost brother of Arnold Van Opstal and Matt Evans). Chris Ball and wide-bodied Raul Soyud must put a premium on jockeying positions for the rebounds. Let the likes of Marata, Lao and Asilum do most of the damage offensively for them. The tandem of Ball and Soyud on the defensive side has been pretty much steady as seen on the preseason. The question is how will they fare among the taller frontcourts in UAAP.
Spoil Sewa’s debut. Ingrid Sewa (a beautiful and effeminate name for perhaps the most manly-looking man on the court when they face on Sunday), will finally be baptized to world of UAAP basketball, with the Fighting Maroons as the “ninongs” to welcome him. And for UP to win, they have to be the sort of godfathers that are very rude, unkind and unwelcoming.
They have to take him out of his game early on so he won’t set loose and be the monster that he can be in the court. Guards like Asilum and Lao should take it inside the paint and fish for his fouls. Defensively, there is no need to put a special defensive scheme as his offense is still raw. The best gift they can give to him is just an honest-to-goodness defense.
Sam Marata vs Jericho Cruz
Offense versus offense. Both of them are capable of delivering big buckets for their respective teams. Both can create for themselves. Cruz, the new leader of Falcons, is more of an attacker and a passer. He can make his way through the paint and drop sick passes to his big man. Marata, meanwhile, is more of a perimeter scorer. Hopefully, he won’t be that happy-go-lucky shooter who jacks up ill-advised 3’s.
If Sewa decides to dominate the inside and if UP frontcourt cannot contain him, this game will be Adamson’s easily. The silver lining that UP might take from this game is a great collegiate debut of Kyles Lao, who is expected to be their starting guard.
The AdU vs UP game will be tomorrow, June 30, 2 p.m. at the MOA Arena.