As their record suggested, the Adamson Soaring Falcons seemed to be the fitting matchup for the struggling UP Fighting Maroons who wanted to close their first round campaign on a positive note after dealing with four straight losses. However, the Soaring Falcons also had a skid of their own that they desperately want to halt. In the end, it was Adamson that came on top and finally barged to the win column in Season 78.
The game somewhat resembled a classic tale of two halves with the Soaring Falcons flexing their muscles in the first half while the Fighting Maroons roaring back in third and fourth quarters. But with a confluence of lucky breaks for Adamson and iffy UP lineups in the closing stages, the Soaring Falcons were able to hold on and strike their first win in seven tries.
From the get go, UP’s defensive scheme was to pack the paint, leading to a lot of open perimeter shots (and a lot of corner threes) for Adamson. In fact, 32 of their 64 field goal attempts in this game were from the three-point area. Papi Sarr, who has been the main man for the Soaring Falcons in recent games, had difficulty to establish his presence inside as UP’s bigs (Andrew Harris and Cheick Kone) were pushing him outside the paint and denying the entry passes to him. But it did not mean his presence was not felt with his work on the glass (rebounding splits of 19/22/20), especially in the closing minutes of the game. Denying Sarr allowed Adamson to explore other options on offense like Joseph Nalos who assisted 36% of the team’s field goals when he was on the court, and Jerome Garcia, whose eruption came randomly to give the Soaring Falcons a comfortable cushion in the first half.
It also did not help the cause of the Fighting Maroons that they were sloppy with the ball early on, as the pesky Adamson defense were hounding the UP ballhandlers almost all the time. Jarrell Lim was clearly bothered with their defense as he picked up his dribble a few feet from the halfcourt on numerous occasions. The Soaring Falcons were able to capitalize from these UP blunders, scoring on all seven fastbreak attempts in the first half.
Second half turned out to be a different story. The Fighting Maroons were still guarding the paint as if it was a sacred area yet they were able to close out on the three-point shooters of Adamson. Paul Desiderio did his best impersonation of Kiefer Ravena as he carried UP on his shoulders with his offensive prowess. He did get a little help from the rest of the guys in order to take the lead at the fourth quarter. However it was not enough as Garcia came to the rescue for Adamson, scoring timely baskets to put the game away.
Game Notes and Other Observations
1. Point guard watch
Just as what most of us expected, Rensy Bajar once again mixed and matched the players in the UP lineup. He was very particular at the point guard rotation as he gave Diego Dario, Henry Asilum and Lim little room for error. Asilum played only four minutes as he was not able to stir the UP’s offense when he was on the court. Lim started the game and played 12 minutes but he was ineffective and committed a lot of turnovers (45% turnover rate in the game). Dario got the most minutes as he was an integral part of the run in the second half. However, his defense (or the lack of) once again was highlighted especially late in the game.
2. Jerome Garcia: As Random As It Gets
Raise your hand if you saw this coming. Garcia’s sizzling performance in this game will go down as one of the strangest things that we’ll witness in our lifetime. Coming into this contest, he had 25 points and zero triples in seven game (including one game in Season 76). With the Fighting Maroons giving Adamson all the space outside, Garcia happily took all the shots he can take, leading to 26 points and five triples and producing a massive 116.1 points per 100 possessions.
3. Free throws hard to come by
There was a huge disparity in the free throw rate between the teams — UP only had 9.2% while Adamson registered 31.3%. It was not that Adamson brought the referees who officiated the 2015 FIBA Asia final here which caused the big difference to their favor, but it was because only Desiderio for the Fighting Maroons who was aggressive to go inside and attack Adamson’s defense. Also, UP went into penalty early in the fourth quarter which gave Adamson a lot of opportunities to score from the charity stripe. Free throws has been a season-long concern for UP as they are only sporting a free throw rate of 14.5%, way below the league average of 21.1%.
4. Rookies showed up
Without a doubt, this was the best game that UP rookies put up altogether. In his second start, Jerson Prado made a significant contribution for the Fighting Maroons as he tallied an offensive rating of 100.4 points per 100 and rebounding splits of 25/31/28. Unfortunately, he had to leave the game due to a dislocated patella in his right knee. Pio Longa and Janjan Jaboneta were vital cogs of the turnaround by UP in the second half. Longa torched the Adamson defense as he went through the curls on UP’s sets and knocked down those long distance shots. On the other hand, Jaboneta (120 points per 100) was very efficient at the 4-stop when UP utilized a four-guard lineup plus Kone for the most part in the fourth quarter.
5. Prado out for the season. What now?
With Prado now out for the season, UP’s frontline gets thinner. This calls for Mark Juruena and Gelo Vito, two big guys who have been relatively silent this season, to step up in his absence. As a low-usage yet high-efficiency player and a tremendous offensive rebounder (15.1% ORB), Prado’s services shall be missed. Get well soon, young man. Bounce back.