The Falcons charged uphill, swung hard with their pickaxes and sticks, surrounded the cavalry charge and got smashed. But not before forcing them to abandon their horses, muster every bit of their training, go into the defensive and pull out all the stops just to survive. This, I believe is a moral victory, and more importantly, a shining example of how far the Falcons have come since game one.

They’ve grown up and they’ve grown up fast, but none bigger and faster than Papi Sarr.

Putting up 24 points and 22 rebounds is no small feat, and doing it against the top team in the league magnifies it even more. After five games, the trials and experiments the team has been going through is showing signs of paying off. Play after play, Sarr was getting the ball in the post, in good position to score. How did FEU respond? By fouling him and sending him to the line. How did this benefit the Falcons? Sarr hit his free throws.

Part of the beauty of seeing Sarr, through his limited post moves, tear up FEU in the paint, was the way Adamson put him in position to do so. The Falcons got him the ball in three ways—1) Post entry pass, 2) Post-to-post pass, 3) Drop off. And number two was my favorite.

There’s no doubt about it, this game was all about Sarr spamming, but this time it paid off. His usage rate skyrocketed to 36.8% but unlike previous games, his offensive rating actually justified his high usage. Producing .929 points per possession, why wouldn’t you give him the ball?

The other part of the beautiful performance was the final gift of Coach Duremdes to the Falcons. Yes, I’ve been hard on him since… well… forever, but I think he deserves a bit of credit on this one. For 14 games last year, the Falcons did nothing on defense but work on the shifting 2-3 zone. I can say that it paid off this game. Aside from coach Racela’s attempts to experiment with lineups, FEU was held to an atrocious (by their own standard) shooting percentage. Adamson’s zone was reactive enough to close out on shooters all while clogging the paint. FEU’s scoring came off mid-range jumpers and the occassional three ball.

FEU’s offense dipped so low (82.9 ORTG), they were brought even further down than when they were beaten by UST (91.1).

So FEU got it together in the end with Tolomia torching Adamson off the indbound plays. The fact that for 38 minutes, FEU was made to struggle is leaps and bounds a better showing than what the Falcons have been doing all season long on defense.

If Adamson can build on the momentum that going toe-to-toe with the top seeded UAAP team brings, the coming second round will definitely be a thriller for Adamson fans.

Review of Winning Conditions

FEU ‘s True Shooting % is less than 30% – 41%

For a team that averaged 54% true shooting, cutting down their percentage to a low 40 is not bad. The active 2-3 and later 3-2 zone effectively bothered FEU’s shooters enough to lower their shooting output. Although, the zone did eventually bite Adamson in the butt later on when Tolomia was left open for a three on an inbound play, but that can be chalked up to inexperience, and yes, I’m going to do that for this game.

Adamson’s  eFG% is more than 50% – 37%

This was a tall order, but at least the offensive output was still improved thanks to Sarr. Sarr alone had a 54% true shooting percentage which included a bazillion shots in the paint, a bazillion more from the stripe and a singular three point attempt which… well… he earned it, I guess.

Raymar Jose’s usage rate (USG%) is more than 22% – 13.4%

Jose was one of the more efficient scorers for FEU in a game where Belo, Tolomia and Escoto were struggling to flex their offensive muscles as they wished. But had Jose been burdened with more attempts, it’s likely his numbers would have gone down, as the players with the higher offensive ratings have lower usage rates.

Dawn Ochea’s USG% is more than 20% – 15%

I really wish Ochea would assert himself more on the floor. Down the stretch he went to his signature post shake leading to a hook shot, only for him to “alligator arm” it and come up short. With a bit more confidence and deliberateness in his offense, he can trigger flashbacks of Eric Camson or even Janus Lozada who handled the middle for the Falcons during their Final Four run.

The next game ends the round for the Falcons. We’ve seen them fall time and time again, but after this encounter with FEU, hopefully they’ve learned to spread their wings, and hopefully starting on their next game, they will learn to soar.