After coming up short and finishing in fifth place last season, the Ateneo Blue Eagles’ goal of returning to the Final Four has now been achieved as they defeated the Adamson Soaring Falcons, 67-52.

It was a bad field day for both teams: 34% or 20-of-58 for Ateneo and 32% or 18-of-57 for Adamson. The first twenty minutes were quite an eyesore as they only shot 23 and 22 percent respectively. The match started really slow with both squads repeatedly missing easy baskets, committing defensive errors, and turning the ball over.

Team 1st half PTS 1st half FGM/FGA 1st half TO

Ateneo Blue Eagles

23 7/30 10

Adamson Soaring Falcons

16 6/27 13

The pace picked up after the half with the Eagles establishing a double-digit lead and never looking back. They scored 26 huge points in the fourth quarter alone, including a 15-0 run that completely took the game away from the Falcons’ reach.

Don Trollano carried Adamson on his shoulders with 20 points (7-of-20 FG) and five rebounds. Fellow veteran Jansen Rios was limited to nine markers.

The Eagles edged the Falcons in assists, 17-7. Chris Newsome led the way with six dimes, while Kiefer Ravena and Nico Elorde dished four apiece.

Four Factors

Team Poss Pace eFG% TOV% ORB% FTR ORTG

Ateneo Blue Eagles

76.4 77.3 39.7 21.2 35.0 36.2 86.7

Adamson Soaring Falcons

78.1 77.3 34.2 27.3 34.9 22.8 67.3

Game Notes and Other Observations


Adamson used zone defense for most of the game, only switching to man-to-man for a few minutes in the second quarter when they decided to double Kiefer. Ateneo initially struggled to bust the zone especially since their three-pointers were not falling. They managed to drain just six of their 27 attempts. In the first two periods, they had a difficult time penetrating the lane and getting their inside game going. They even got whistled for 3-second violation thrice as their big men tried and failed to get into position and score underneath.

They found some answers in the latter part, capitalizing mostly on Chris Newsome’s aggressive drives (whose mask looked so apt in this contest as he battled Adamson’s physicality like a superhero), Kiefer’s ability to draw the defense and dish (or take impossible shots, whichever works), and Ponso Gotladera‘s off-ball baseline movement and lovely reverse finish. I have no idea why Adamson stubbornly stuck with the zone D up to the last minute. They could have put more pressure on the ball and not allow Ateneo to just waste away the time in the final frame.

That beautiful Ponso Gotladera reverse layup (Photo Credit: Raddy Mabasa, Fabilioh)


I’ve said before that carrying the bulk of the load will eventually take its toll on Ateneo’s starters – with Kiefer, Newsome, and Elorde logging the heaviest minutes. Coach Bo Perasol has been extending his rotation in recent games in search of that firepower off the bench that could solve this problem in preparation for the semis. He played around with his lineup in the game against UP to a fault, but I don’t think he’s found the right mix just yet.

Gwyne Capacio and Thirdy Ravena probably have the most potential to contribute on both ends. Capacio is not afraid to take it straight to the hoop or release from the rainbow area. He capped Ateneo’s 15-0 run in this game with five straight points. More than scoring, Thirdy can be of help in grabbing boards and defending long and athletic players. Giboy Babilonia and John Apacible are defensive assets in charge of huge opponents. They have also shown us glimpses of their inside game that thrives on feeds off Kiefer and Newsome. It still needs a lot of polishing but it’s workable.

He’s part of the regular rotation but I would like to mention Arvin Tolentino and his newfound hustle. In 17 minutes, he finished with six points on nine shots (still zero from deep unfortunately), four rebounds, one assist, and two steals. I know we’ve seen better statline from the rookie, but the effort on the floor not recorded in numbers has been improving every time.

Final Thoughts

Against FEU, the Blue Eagles have to collect themselves and play tougher than their previous two games. Hopefully, a full week’s rest will give the starters enough ammunition to reload and gear for battle. They have to overcome this final hurdle to secure the top spot. If you ask me, they badly need a twice-to-beat seed if they want to go all the way.


Featured image courtesy of Mark Cristino, ABS-CBN News