Coming off relatively poor showings against the NU Bulldogs and the DLSU Green Archers, the Adamson Soaring Falcons found themselves playing their absolute worst all-season-long against the previously winless UE Red Warriors.
This was the most crushing of defeats for Adamson, one that ought to leave a mark on them. Before this game, the UE Red Warriors had no business even challenging for the win, yet they outplayed, out-hustled and outscored the Falcons, en route to their first win of the season. It was a much-deserved win for the U. of the East, one Adamson can only blame on themselves.
In my book, this is the first “true” loss by the Falcons, as this was a game that they were supposed to win.
Through the first five games, by design or by accident, the Falcons were allowed to get by on sub-par level of play. In this one, poor shooting from the start stunted Adamson’s attack, yet despite the poor showing, the Falcons found themselves up five points going into the fourth quarter, 45-40.
That cushion, despite it being such a low-scoring game, might have gotten the Falcons complacent, as the Red Warriors went on to shock them, stopping them dead in their tracks in the fourth quarter.
Shock and Trap
Falcon guard Robbie Manalang was harassed, pushed and punished by the UE press, especially in the fourth quarter, where him to committed three of his six turnovers of the game.
There was also a sudden spike in pace and offensive efficiency from the Warriors that the Falcons didn’t react to until it was too late.
Add those to the inability of the Falcons to execute the seal plays for Papi Sarr that worked so well for them in the third, and the Adamson could only shoot blanks, as they watched their lead vanish and the Red Warriors go ahead.
This all resulted in an uncharacteristically efficient fourth quarter for the Red Warriors on offense. UE scored 24 points at an offensive rating of 103.4 points per 100 possessions, all while not giving up a single turnover. It wasn’t that the Falcons didn’t exert the necessary effort. Twelve fourth quarter rebounds by Papi Sarr is by no means a lazy effort. The problem simply was that Adamson couldn’t put the ball through the hoop.
Life after Efficiency
After their loss to DLSU, it became apparent that how successful the Falcons would be in the UAAP would be tied to their efficiency on the offensive end. That said, their greatest challenge at this point is to find winning conditions other than a sterling efficiency number. This game exposed their lack of a back-up plan as they ultimately lost the game on good looks that just didn’t go in.
This game the Falcons were forced to their poorest offensive outing yet, efficiency-wise. A horrid 68.59 offensive rating allowed the league’s worst offensive performing team to beat them without even needing to play above their capabilities. UE shot a 33.75% eFG and posted a 77.01 ORTG, which is not a significant improvement from their averages before this game.
In other words, the Falcons absolutely, by all means, lost this game on their own inability to play the way they played in the four games prior.
Before the final period, the Falcons should have and could have been up big against the Warriors if only their shots fallen. It was fortunate that JD Tungcab hit a three pointer and few jumpers in the first quarter. However, the UAAP’s version of the “Splash Bros.” chucked up dud after dud.
As a team the Falcons shot an atrocious 4-of-26 from beyond the arc. Jerrick Ahanmisi and Robbie Manalang went 1-of-7 and 1-of-8 respectively from the three-point area. While the percentages are somewhat expected of Manalang who as the point guard is often found shooting the three ball to escape 24 second violations, the same cannot be said for Ahanmisi, around whom the Falcons offense revolves when they aren’t trying to feed Sarr in the post.
In the second quarter, the Falcons were kept at bay with a long four minute scoring drought, but they made up for it with a strong offensive burst that extended their lead over UE to 30-21 at the half. What got them their burst was the realization that UE was not going to let them shoot from the outside. This led to a lot of improvisation by Ahanmisi who tried to make the most of the elevator screens being set for him.
Unfortunately the “close” on the screens don’t come quick enough to stop his defenders, requiring Ahanmisi to opt for a drive from the left wing in most cases. Small problems on execution like these became bigger ones as the Warriors slowly began to back off and clog the paint.
It came to the point that Ahanmisi’s drives would leave Dawn Ochea open on the weakside wing. Unfortunately Dawn only made them pay for it once, allowing the Warriors to continue packing the paint.
Eventually UE packing the paint made it impossible for Sarr to get position for his post-ups, which then forced the guards to take bad shots. As each shot missed its mark, one after the other, all UE had to do was rebound and take whatever shot they can find on their offensive end.
All is not lost for the Falcons. This game is just a bitter reminder of what happens when they fail to execute their game. All teams, including the best teams in the world, will have games where they show vulnerability. There will always be games where the basketball gods are unkind to a team. There will always be games where the players just won’t meet their averages, and it’s okay. What matters is how the team reacts to these difficult times.
One game doesn’t make a contender, neither does it break one. We have seen the Falcons at their best against UP, now this is the Falcons at their absolute worst against UE. From now on, what we hope to see is the stable Falcons. Even if they don’t explode offensively, they should at least continue to maintain a certain standard of play.
The season is young, Coach Franz Pumaren has seen worse and come out better from worse scenarios. Trust the system, trust each other.