Dawn Ochea had 0 blocks, 0 steals, 0 assists, 1 rebound and 2 of the biggest points of the Soaring Falcons’ season so far.

No team has tormented the Soaring Falcons as much as the Ateneo Blue Eagles especially in recent years. It took Adamson 5 seasons to finally get another win over them, but boy did Ateneo force them to earn it.

While I expected the Falcons to win this game, I didn’t quite expect it to be this close a contest. The Ateneo Blue Eagles played their butts off and created problems for the Falcons at every turn. Run for run, the two teams were practically deadlocked. Even the box scores look practically identical.

Adamson Ateneo
62 Points 61
36 Rebounds 36
9 Assists 14
2 Steals 4
2 Blocks 2
18 Turnovers 18
4 Three pointers made 6

Rebounds were even, turnovers were even, Ateneo had the advantage in assists, steals and three pointers made, but Adamson still managed to squeeze out the win in a game so close it could have very easily gone the other way.

So what went right for Adamson (other than Ochea’s shot going in)?

Efficiency and Defense

Adamson stuck to their game plan which was to “out-efficient” their opponents. They were going to put up a good shot or no shot at all. Aside from the third quarter, the Falcons managed to keep their efficiency high.

 Quarter 1 2 3 4
eFG% 65.38% 54.17% 25% 50%
eFG% allowed 37.50% 60.71% 72.73% 13.3%
ORTG 112.63 80.55 66.83 101.02
DRTG 80.45 115.07 127.85 31.57
Rebounds 9 5 7 15
Rebounds allowed 13 8 7 8

It seems Adamson’s identity as a team is now becoming one of efficiency. Ateneo showed flashes of brilliance on both the offensive and defensive ends of the floor, they moved the ball well on offense, took the shots that appeared before them and rebounded whenever they could, but in this game their ability to score dwindled.When they were hot, they were hot, but when they were cold, they stayed cold.

For Adamson, it was all about the efficiency. Adamson’s ball rotation is best exemplified by the triple hand-off at the top of the key. They use it to get the right shots and they run it sometimes to their detriment, but what comes out of it is a “one shot, one kill” mentality which values shot quality over shot quantity.

Adamson maintained a good to average effective field goal percentage except in the third which allowed Ateneo to build their 10 point lead going into the fourth.

This new found hint of consistency is what the Falcons need to build on if they are to make even more waves in this league. Keep the efficiency rating hovering around the 50% mark and then just worry about bringing the opponent’s efficiency down.

On defense the Falcons woke up in the fourth quarter. They held Ateneo to 5 points in order to make their dramatic comeback. One focal point of the defense was making sure they rebounded, which they did in the fourth quarter, out-rebounding Ateneo 15 to 8. Not allowing Ateneo second chances meant Ateneo needed to make the most of every attempt, and when it came to a efficient-off Adamson knew it had the advantage.

Before the fourth, Adamson had either been out-rebounded or had the same number of rebounds as Ateneo.

Although it has to be pointed out that some of the misses Ateneo had in the fourth weren’t directly forced by Adamson’s defense, and that some of them were the result of aggregated pressure because of the change of pace.

The Pumaren effect

At the start of the year no bigger change to Adamson’s lineup was there than Coach Franz Pumaren. When he said he would be bringing his winning ways, few expected for the winning-ness to rub off onto the players so quickly.

It was the mental fortitude, the poise, the confidence that ultimately gave Adamson the shot it needed to win this game. Without it, the Falcons would have been happy to have been a shot away from winning.

Unlike teams of yester-year, when Adamson found itself in a 10-point hole going into the fourth they didn’t panic or go into hero-ball mode, they listened to their coach’s adjustments and played on.

Unlike former players, when Robbie Manalang missed from the left wing and then got the ball back at the exact same spot, he didn’t think for a second that he would miss again.

Unlike in previous outings against Ateneo, when Dawn Ochea caught the inbound pass and squared up for the shot, he wasn’t content with moral victories.

I’ve said it many times, but Franz Pumaren’s presence in the team has given the players an air of confidence that they bring onto the court. No more robotic horns actions, no more unnecessary extra passes for the sake of not getting scolded. They have a leader again, and right from the start we’re seeing players buy into the system and how it’s paying off.

Final Notes

Pumaren looked like a coaching genius sending Ochea in at the last minute then having him be the one make the game winner. But Tab wasn’t one to be out-done. The final play Ateneo ran with 1.3 seconds left on the clock could have ruined the hopes and confidence of the Falcons. It was caught well, it was released on time and had a good chance of going in. Fortunately for Adamson it bounced out, otherwise, the narrative would be completely the same but for a different shade of blue.