The Games that Play Us: The End of the Beginning

Lester Alvarex and the Falcons stopped the
Blue Eagles from achieving an historic sweep.
(image by Philip Sison/

AdU Soaring Falcons over the AdMU Blue Eagles, 62-46

I don’t want to pretend that this was a good loss for Ateneo, because it sure as hell didn’t feel like it. I don’t want to pretend that Ateneo “needed” this loss, because at the end of the eliminations, on the cusp of the Final Four, against the team that held the Eagles to their lowest output of the season (till now), they needed to make a bold and sweeping statement.

And, well, the Loyola five did make a statement – that they could be beaten.

And how!

While it is true that this loss extinguishes the pressure of a sweep, it still stings mightily because it’s from the Falcons. It’s from the team that couldn’t beat the Eagles after 29 tries. It’s from the team that took it to the Katipunan quintet for nearly the whole 40 minutes in the inaugural playdate of Season 74. It’s the team that has defended nearly as well nearly all the time as the Ateneans. It’s the team that has shown, twice now, that they’ve got Norman Black’s boys figured out.

And Ateneo might face Adamson again down the road.

All along, everyone knew that coach Leo Austria was one of the best bench tacticians in the league. He prepares hard for every game. He espouses discipline amongst his wards. He knows how to harness the talent at his fingertips. And what threads it all together is this FACT – he’s hungry for a UAAP win over the Eagles.

And boy did they nail it today.

It had to end sometime, and the Falcons made sure
Ateneo's win streak ended that day.
(image by Diana Moraleda/
In fact, save for assists, the Falcons were better in every category. It was a statistical nightmare, and a real one on the court, too.

Adamson held Ateneo to just 55 points in their first match this season – a total that was the lowest for Ateneo in 13 games, until yesterday. The Falcon defense that was already solid in that initial battle was even more phenomenal here, and the Eagles responded with bouts of frustration and bewilderment.

There were times the Loyolans didn’t know what to do, and then there were times they tried to do too much. Adamson was clearly a puzzle the Eagles failed to solve, and, in reality, it’ll probably be the hardest puzzle to unravel for this erstwhile unbeaten flock.

Greg Slaughter had an extremely tough time
playing against the Adamson frontline.
(image by Philip Sison/
Alex Nuyles sizzled for Adamson, scoring 21 points as he repeatedly bamboozled the Ateneo defense whether in the halfcourt or on transition. Lester Alvarez backstopped him with 14 on the strength of flawless free-throw shooting (9-of-9). The whole Adamson squad, in fact, made all 19 of their charities. They clearly prepared for this bout with unprecedented ferocity.

What this loss does for Adamson is it gives them solo second, and locks in the last twice-to-beat edge for coach Austria. More than that, though, it shatters the aura of invincibility Ateneo has enjoyed over the last 14 years. It shatters the invincibility the Ateneans built over the first 13 games of the season. Losing this big at this point in the season is critical, more critical than if it happened in the first round or a week ago. The timing, coupled with the point spread, makes Adamson all the more frightening, even in the face of their recent defeats from the past few weeks, and does the complete opposite for the Eagles.

No matter who Ateneo goes up against in the Final Four, that opponent will draw strength and inspiration from this game. FEU/UST will probably think that if an Adamson team they beat this round can beat the Ateneans so convincingly, then they can too.

And what does this mean for coach Black and his league-leading team? It means an adjustment here and there, maybe a little bit of reinvention, perhaps some misdirection. In short, it’s right up his alley. I’m certain coach Black will draw from his myriad of experiences to find a way to enable his boys to respond to this loss in the most constructive way possible.

Will the Ateneans explode in the Final Four and blast whomever they’ll face? Or will this loss sting them so deeply they won’t recover? Nobody can know for sure, but champions don’t take losing lightly, and these champions will certainly seize the chance to bounce back. What was that Rudy Tomjanovich line during the 1995 NBA Playoffs when his Houston Rockets weren’t exactly the scariest team going into the postseason?

Never underestimate the heart of a champion.

Nico Salva and Toniño Gonzaga now have to look forward
to an unlikely Final Four encounter.
(image by Philip Sison/
Make no mistake, this loss doesn’t mark the beginning of the end for Ateneo. Rather, it marks the end of the beginning. The elims are done. It’s championship time once again, and this is where Eagles fly high.

One BIG Fight!

AdU 62 – Nuyles 21, Alvarez 14, Camson 6, Brondial 4, Lozada 4, Colina 4, Manyara 4, Etrone 3, Cañada 2, Cabrera 0
AdMU 46 – Slaughter 10, Long 9, Ravena 9, Gonzaga 7, Salva 5, Monfort 4, Chua 2, Golla 0, Austria 0, Tiongson 0
QS: 14-8, 27-24, 50-31, 62-46

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2 Comment

sir flojo! haha, kliff here.. so we still have a twice to beat advantage?


Hey Kliff! Yeah AdMU still enjoys a twice-to-beat edge in the Final Four. They are the top seeds and will face #4 (UST). Ateneo needs just one win to advance to the Finals while the Tigers need to beat the Eagles twice in a row. One BIG Fight!