It is not how you start, it is how you finish.
This was proven yet again in the heart-pumping 67-62 victory by the UST Growling Tigers against this season’s host, Adamson Soaring Falcons. UST started their second game of the season awfully. Credit goes to Adamson as they manifested a suffocating inside defense and had their blazing offensive run in the first half led by their towering import Ingrid Sewa. He was practically unstoppable on both ends of the court during the first half, tallying 13 points and six rebounds at 83.3% field goal shooting and most importantly limiting Kareem Abdul to only two points.
After the break, Sewa fades while Kevin Ferrer and Aljon Mariano carried the Tigers in the third quarter; Jeric Teng took over late in the final period. These were all made possible by Tigers’ highly efficient full court press and zone defense. Every time Adamson’s rookie point guard Axel Iñigo was fielded, UST applies full court press that resulted to seven steals and 14-0 run in the third period that marked the comeback of the Tigers.
Their full court press not only gave those steals and points but it also took away the game of Sewa. With Adamson unable to execute their half court sets, Sewa wasn’t able to touch the ball as much as he did in the first half. In the times that Sewa was able to get the ball, he was harassed by UST’s zone defense. Forcing him to either lose the ball or pass it to a teammate for a low percentage jump shot (mostly attempted by Jericho Cruz who’s known for his poor shooting percentage when taking a jumper).
In the third quarter, Mariano and Ferrer made sure that their team defense would not be put to waste by converting most of their steals into a much needed points. Mariano led the Tigers by dishing out hippy passes to Ferrer who scored 12 of his 17 points in the second half. With the momentum on UST’s side, Sewa held scoreless and the rest of the Falcons bleed for their points, Tigers erected a double-digit lead in the fourth and final period. Under a minute left in the game, UST was in a commanding lead having a 10-point advantage over Adamson. At that moment, Tigers seems to be on verge of bagging their second win. Don Trollano answered with back-to-back triples and Roider Cabrera converted his own version of a three-point shot to cut the deficit to two with only 30.5 seconds remaining. But then, Teng took over and marked his heroic moment again by hitting a clutch jumper that eventually shut down Adamson’s chance of coming back.
Reviewing Keys to the Game
1. Attack and Protect the Rim
UST totally failed to do this in the first half, with Sewa ruling the paint and Abdul bothered by the presence of his Cameroonian counterpart. Adamson was scoring inside through fast breaks and Sewa’s power game inside. UST countered this with their smooth shooting from beyond the arc which was, by the way, completely out in their first game. Their three-point shooting kept them in the game but come the second half, UST’s full court press allowed them to attack the rim as Adamson’s defense was not yet set upon completing a steal from the backcourt. Their attacks were then coupled with defensive stops by making the Falcons a jump shooting team. The primary key to the Tigers’ win was their defense that fueled their offense. They were able to containing Sewa in the second half to zero points and they were able to score easy baskets on the break.
2. Control the Boards
Adamson dominated the boards by rebounding 59 against UST’s 39. Almost half of their rebounds (21 to be exact) were on the offensive end. But the main problem with the Falcons was that even though they were crashing the boards, they kept on missing their shots as they only converted 22 FG out of 64 attempts. And it did not help their cause that they were forced to commit a large amount of turnovers, summing up to 22 TOs compared to only 16 for UST.
3. Free throws Boos
As predicted, Adamson struggled in converting their charities all game long. But UST also didn’t perform well in this department as they missed crucial FTs late in the fourth period. If not for their large margin in the final minute, the outcome of the game could have been different.
In their first two games, UST failed to start strong. Good thing they were able to adjust in the second half. But how long would they be able to do this? They may be known for their thrilling come from behind wins in the previous season, but at some point they should learn to open up games with a blast. For all we know it, this might be a factor of their failed campaign last season.
The tigers’ next opponent would be this season’s powerhouse, the NU Bulldogs. With Bulldogs suffering their first loss and Ray-Ray Parks struggling, it can be expected that they would come back strong with the goal of not having a back-to-back loss. It is imperative then for the Tigers to play all out from start to finish if they want to stand a chance against the revenge-driven Bulldogs.