Analysis: Adamson 62 vs Ateneo 61
by rick olivares
This is a feel good win for the Adamson Falcons. One, it is their second win over Ateneo this millennium, and two, it is a massive confidence builder for this team and raises the believability factor in their new coach, Franz Pumaren.
Pumaren picked up the biggest win yet in his return to college ball by taking down an old nemesis. That last play where he pulled out Dawn Ochea from the bench with five seconds left reminded him of a play they ran in a tune-up match versus Athletes in Action. In that tune-up match, main gunners Rob Manalang and Jerrick Ahanmisi were covered the the third option was Ochea. The veteran forward hesitated and Adamson lost. Not so this time around. And it was a difficult shot with Ateneo’s Vince Tolentino all over him.
Ateneo had a chance to reprise a game winning play with 1.9 seconds left. That had me thinking of Norman Black’s brilliant inbounds play by Macky Escalona to a streaking Doug Kramer for a game winning lay-up versus UST in the Game One of the 2006 Finals. It was as Tab Baldwin diagramed. Except that Thirdy Ravena wasn’t able to fully get the ball and the high-arcing jumper he took over the outstretched arms of Sean Maganti bounced harmlessly off the ring.
Ateneo came out and played great defense. Even better than what they displayed against FEU. They denied Ahanmisi and Manalang their touches and looks. They did find daylight on some occasions and were able to unleash those big shots they are already known for. Even when they led by 10 points entering the fourth period, they still had a massive chance to pull out a win in the face of a searing Adamson rally that saw Manalang catch fire while center Papi Sarr pounded Ateneo inside.
What was Ateneo’s downfall?
It would be easy to say turnovers but not really. Both squads committed five turnovers in the fourth quarter yet neither squad was able to capitalize on them until Papi Sarr’s huge steal off Adrian Wong.
What hurt Ateneo is its anemic offense and lack of a post presence. The Blue Eagles scored five points in the fourth period. FIVE.
As I previously mentioned in my analysis of Ateneo’s win over FEU, it is dead last in scoring with 67.0 points per game. Again, we hold opponent’s down to 68.0 points per game so that’s a negative. Can defend but can’t score. As a result it’s a negative.
Assist totals are down as well although Matt Nieto played his best game of the season.
The defense held for much of the game but when you can’t score that is eventually going to hurt more so when the Falcons have consistent scorers in Jerrick Ahanmisi and Papi Sarr.
Anton Asistio was the only Blue Eagle in double figures with 12 points. The Nieto twins, Matt and Mike were superb. Others also chipped in and helped out. But when push came to shove, Adamson's Big Three of Ahanmisi, Manalang, and Sarr came up big and all scored in double digits.
And after midway through the first period, Ateneo began to settle for jump shots. You say Adamson packed the lane? Why should that stop one from attacking the lane?
As I previously mentioned, Ateneo’s bigs have to contribute . It would be nice for them to put up huge numbers but they aren’t that sort. Just doing well enough is good. Chibueze Ikeh had his moments and he was active again for the second straight game but Sarr came up big in the fourth period with four points and eight rebounds with three off the offensive glass. And there’s the matter of Sarr's steal that lead to the game winning basket.
Vince Tolentino has become a reliable player on both ends of the court but he isn’t the sort who will score a lot although he does a lot of the other things such as pass, rebound, defend, screen, and hustle. And Kris Porter nailed some big shots too. And while that is good, I’d love to see him pound that post like he did during the pre-season.
Two concerns, one of which may have burned the Blue Eagles. From the outset — and I pointed this out to other people at the game and not in hindsight — I wondered why put Thirdy Ravena on Ahanmisi? The result was two quick early fouls that robbed the team of its one true slasher with Aaron Black out; a person who can create and attack the basket. At that moment, I was suddenly reminded of that move when Norman Black had Nonoy Baclao chase UST’s Dylan Ababou across the court — the result was foul trouble for Ateneo’s defensive stopper. For one, they aren’t good perimeter defenders. Why not maybe Tolentino, Wong, or even Mike Nieto? His numbers have really dipped. Of course, it is a team game but to my thinking, I would not risk that.
Second concern is Chibueze Ikeh going out in the mid-fourth. Sure maybe he needed a breather and it is expected that Gboy Babilonia hold his own against Sarr. In my opinion, I’d still play that Ikeh-Sarr match up. Besides Chib wasn’t in foul trouble. As it is, Adamson’s three main men — Ahanmisi, Manalang, and Sarr all played the entire fourth period. I think you want your main men on the floor. It isn’t like Ateneo was leading by a mile and had that luxury of substituting.
While Adamson didn’t make much headway in Ikeh’s less than two minutes on the bench, Sarr did pick up four huge rebounds including two off the offensive board. Wasted opportunity to score for Ateneo.
I am not crazy with Jolo Mendoza or even Anton Asistio in bringing down the ball. Yes, I know they are used at the one. I think they expend too much energy just trying to break the pressure applied to them and more oft than not take shots under duress. That was why Jolo missed his first two attempts - he was under duress. His big three? That was in the flow of the game. I figure he and Matt Nieto have a keen understanding of each other having played together for so long. Why not give it a try?
And why not press? Yes, I know we need a five to hold the fort in the event of a break through. But look at UE and UP, that doesn’t stop them from pressing. And they are second and fifth in points in the paint respectively while Ateneo is sixth. UE is first in fastbreak points while UP is third. The problem is they get killed because of the lack of a quality big man. Just like Ateneo although Ateneo doesn’t run and press.
Ateneo nearly followed up its big win over FEU with another “ugly” masterpiece (I mean that in a positive way and not a negative one) of a gritty game but they fell short. And this hurts.
How did Adamson pull this off?
By hanging tough. In a close game, you don’t want to give too much of a lead so you are within striking distance. Franz Pumaren is one of the masters of set plays and his mantra is to keep it close so he can coach. Can’t coach when you are being blown off the court.
When he saw Terrence Mustre drop his shoulders betraying a body language that he thought detrimental to his team, he immediately pulled him out. And he called upon his main man… Rob Manalang.
Credit goes to Manalang who was mostly stifled but was smart enough to deal with the defense. He drove at his attacker and gained confidence by scoring from close range. With the defense sagging off him, he found himself open to hit two triples in the fourth.
Papi Sarr had a solid outing. In Adamson’s two wins, Sarr posted a double double. In their lone loss to FEU, he wasn’t much of a factor. He did score 11 points in that game against the Tamaraws but he only grabbed seven rebounds.
Credit also goes to Ochea for not losing his head. He was in foul trouble all match long and played only five minutes. He grabbed one rebound and made only one of two shots. But he hit the most important one of all.
And this victory propels them into their tough sked this week, first against NU and then La Salle. The win was an acid test for these young Falcons who are no doubt flush with confidence.
This match thus far was the best game of the young Season 79 tourney.