Adamson-Ateneo thriller highlights one key UAAP lesson
MANILA, Philippines – One of the most important lessons when it comes to life applies more strongly with UAAP basketball:
Don’t ever assume anything.
Don’t assume that this team is going to win without question or doubt.
Don’t assume the other team isn’t going to put up a fight.
Don’t assume anything is ever guaranteed.
And most importantly, don’t ever assume which team to crown the champion before they’ve played a second of basketball.
Yes, for long stretches, many of us believed Season 81 was a done deal. After going undefeated in Filoil and representing the Philippines in the William Jones Cup tournament, how could anyone think the Ateneo Blue Eagles wouldn’t repeat as champions, right?
Now wait just a damn minute, said Franz Pumaren’s pesky, unrelenting, and headstrong Soaring Falcons.
Adamson defeated Ateneo, 74-70, on Sunday at the Mall of Asia Arena. It was an amazing game to watch, thanks to the hype surrounding the contest before tip-off, the actual match itself, and the storylines begging to be magnified following the result.
The excitement for Ateneo before the season started was palpable. The Blue Eagles looked so good last year on the way to beating De La Salle in the finals, and by the look of things over the summer, they got even better.
But again, nothing is ever guaranteed in the country’s premier collegiate league. With all their pride and grit, Adamson came roaring back after going down double digits in the first half and unapologetically took the fight to Ateneo in the final two quarters.
Adamson scratched, clawed, and screamed their way under the Blue Eagles’ skin, which in turned transformed the usually crisp and systematic play of coach Tab Baldwin’s boys into something a little more different from what we’ve grown accustomed to.
Adamson forced Ateneo to 19 turnovers and only 8 assists, which is unheard of for a Baldwin-coached roster. The Blue Eagles shot a terrible 28% from the field, and if it wasn’t for their 22-of-30 performance at the foul line, the disparity of the game would likely have been higher.
But do you want to know what really stands out? It was how much more resiliency Adamson showed when it came down to winning time.
Hey, you don’t have to take my word from it. Read this quote from Baldwin and tell me what you think (spoiler alert, Ateneo: don’t blame the kids):
“When we give up 14 offensive rebounds and 17 or 18 second-chance points in the second half, that’s got nothing to do with rookies,” said Baldwin after the game. “That’s got to do with effective defense and being in position to box out – all of which we failed to do. That isn’t a rookie issue.”
In Ateneo’s defense, the entire team wasn’t willing to listen to the talk about how they were assured of winning the UAAP title or the possibilities of their team doing the near-impossible of sweeping the elimination round and playoffs. But you can make the case the younger Falcons, who have 7 rookies on their roster, were more hungry for victory.
“We started scouting them months and months ago,” said Jerrick Ahanmisi, who led his team with 23 points on a 4-of-10 (40%) shooting from downtown. “Whoever was on the court, they played a hundred percent and I’m glad we came out with the win.”
Ahanmisi looked different. He’s clearly Pumaren’s best player, and while he may not always show the same type of intensity that you catch other players displaying on camera, inside his head is the brain of a phenomenal basketball player – one who can hurt your team in more ways than one.
Add all that skill and IQ with some extra grit and toughness, and you have a player who can lead an upset of the defending champions with his running mate, Rob Manalang, already gone, and his wingman, Sean Manganti, having an off day.
But the win wasn’t all on Ahanmisi. Other Falcons like rookies Jerom Lastimosa, CJ Catapusan, and WIll Magbuhos did not look intimidated for a single second under the bright lights of the Mall of Asia Arena. The 50-50 balls, the hustle plays, the momentum-shifters; it felt like almost all of it went Adamson’s way.
To a certain degree, the Falcons unveiled a blueprint to out-duel Ateneo.
The Blue Eagles won’t beat themselves. They’re organized, accurate, and systematic. They will force you to make mistakes to beat yourself, but best be sure that even the slightest misstep can give them the edge to run away with the win.
For a few minutes in the second quarter, that looked like the formula Adamson was following. A Jerie Pingoy 3-pointer commenced a Falcons rally to get them back in the game, and the momentum-changing half-court buzzer beater by Ahanmisi turned the tide of the ballgame.
In the third period, Adamson played like a team who didn’t give a damn who were the defending champions on the court. They got up in Ateneo’s faces, even shoving them from time to time, and it worked. The physicality forced the Blue Eagles to disarray and by the time Matt Nieto and company got their bearings back in the fourth period, Adamson had enough belief that they could pull off the stunner.
Belief. It’s such a simple thing, but absolutely deadly in sports. It’s the spark needed for a rebellion, and in many cases, it’s the exact thing needed to dictate the outcome of a 40-minute basketball game.
Make no mistake about it: Ateneo is still the favorite to finish as this year’s champs, but on Sunday, Adamson made what seemed to be the nearly unattainable task of avoiding an Eagles repeat a little more believable.
And that little glimmer of belief is going to resonate in the entire UAAP. – Rappler.com