Frustration. This was what I felt while watching the Falcons after the five-minute mark of the second quarter. This was also what the Falcons felt from the second quarter onward, punctuated by the image of Joseph Nalos holding on to Vince Tolentino looking like a Y2J-esque Code Breaker.
Adamson came into the game with a plan that made it look as though they were more talented than they actually were. They were running a healthy offense. They were forcing ample turnovers and they were keeping in step with the Eagles all the way through the opening quarter.
Adamson’s offensive woes
All was well for the Falcons as they forced the game into a slow crawl by constantly attacking the rim. Jerome Garcia was driving and getting to the line, Joseph Nalos was driving and getting to the line, Papi Sarr was being himself and getting to the line, the plan was working to some degree.
The free throw party stopped for the Falcons late in the second half when Ateneo made a breakthrough adjustment by throwing Isaac Go against Sarr, an adjustment that the Falcons recognized too late and just couldn’t recover from the rest of the game.
Switching to a 2-3 zone and having Go in the middle meant that Sarr would always face a double team down low, and that Ateneo would have enough time to help on Sarr since Go was hefty enough to prevent a quick post shot.
This led to five turnovers from Joseph Nalos who tried to dish entry passes into Sarr only for him not to be there or an Ateneo player in front of him. Adamson’s offense fell into shambles as their Sarr-y love affair just was being denied effectively.
After halftime, the pressure put on Sarr was exacerbated by the new-found quirk and perkiness of Ateneo’s players.
Still trying to get Sarr the ball, the Falcons ball-watched as the likes of Matt Nieto doubled him in the post and got away with the steal. He wasn’t clean as his determination in not letting the defense get to him, got to him and he completely forgot about passing the ball.
It was fortunate that Ateneo gave them 37 trips to the line otherwise the gap would have been much wider.
Lack of offense was one thing, but failing again on defense is inexcusable. But this time, Ateneo handily frustrated the heck out of Adamson’s defenders simply by making their jumpshots.
That’s right, all of those midrange jumpshots were what got Ateneo control of the game. When Adamson couldn’t zone on them, Adamson couldn’t defend. This also meant Sarr’s presence was constantly blocked out (literally) as the likes of Pessumal and Tolentino chopped them apart.
The nasty fall taken by Tolentino was an example of how poorly the Falcons reacted to Ateneo’s ability to hit jumpers. Nalos bit hard on a pump fake, Tolentino went under the airborne Nalos for the scoop, but it looked like he was going to send Nalos tumbling. The scene that followed was scary. Nalos clung on to Tolentino’s neck, both preventing him from scoring and taking him down in a fashion only before seen on the WWE Network ( for 9.99). Thankfully both players were able to stand without a lip, although it left Tolentino bloodied in the mouth. Ravena shoved Nalos away, both of them were slapped with flagrant fouls but as the dust settled, Nalos was sent packing.
Part pent up frustration, part lack of discipline, Nalos might not have intended to cause anyone harm, but it was certainly his own doing. Had the Falcons been able to contain the Eagles on defense, there would have been no need for the “gigil” that went into his jump and subsequent grab.
When their defense didn’t click neither did their offense and the teamwork, chemistry and discipline necessary to take on a team as mentally prepared as Ateneo vanished.
Right now it shows that coach Mike Fermin is a good teacher, a coach who is able to get his players to run a system. From a team of unknown players, slowly roles are developing and the chemistry is starting show. But they can’t be satisfied with that. Now they need to develop into a team with mental fortitude and discipline.
By discipline it means not panicking when an unknown player comes off the opponent’s bench and frustrates your number one game plan. It means not relying on hero ball when teams start zoning off your post passes. It means continuing to contest jump shots even after a defender has been beaten.
Yes, this is a rebuilding year, a learning year for the Falcons, and frankly they have grown up so much since the start of the season. But with growth comes expectation. Only time will tell if they will meet it.