ADAMSON University showed how many chinks there are in defending champion Ateneo de Manila’s armor and Far Eastern University (FEU) shot down De La Salle in a blockbuster Day 2 of University Athletic Association of the Philippines Season 81 men’s basketball action on Sunday at the Mall of Asia Arena.
Coach Franz Pumaren and his Soaring Falcons sent a strong message of what they could do this season by wearing down the Blue Eagles, 74-70, for the biggest win in the two-day old season.
FEU, meanwhile, made a De La Salle side miss its big man Ben Mbala so badly to score a 68-61 victory in Sunday’s other game.
The Falcons’ victory was a reality check of sorts for the Blue Eagles, who have primed themselves up by holding fort against more seasoned and stronger opponents in the William Jones Cup and by dominating a pre-season tournament.
Adamson University clamped down on Ateneo’s scorers—a play typical of Pumaren at De La Salle—while getting active with the ball more often to join early winners University of the Philippines and National University that kicked off on Saturday with what could go down as the best opening ceremony so far in the league.
The Blue Eagles were forced to 21 turnovers and although the Falcons had 19, their stability at crunchtime led to their victory.
A trey by Jerrick Ahanmisi made it at 53-46 for Adamson University midway the third period. But Ateneo clawed back to tie at 70-all via on Thirdy Ravena’s tip-in with less than a minute to play.
Then came Papi Sarr, who had a bad shooting day but converted on a putback to make it 72-70, and Sean Manganti, who was also misfiring the entire match, nailed two free throws to seal the victory.
Ahanmisi finished with 23 points and four rebounds, while Vince Magbuhos added a 10-point, 10-rebound performance for the Soaring Falcons.
Matt Nieto had 21 for the Blue Eagles.
Without Mbala, the Green Archers hardly plugged a gaping hole in the middle and succumbed to the rampaging Tamaraws.
FEU coach Olsen Racela pounced on the Green Archers and made Aljun Melecio work for his shots.
“It’s a big advantage for us [without Mbala] because we just focused on Melecio. De La Salle actually has many weapons, but we pride ourselves on team defense,” Racela said.
But it wasn’t a smooth ride all the way for FEU.
The Green Archers were slightly in control with a 26-25 edge at the break until Arvin Tolentino scattered 11 of his team-high 13 points in the second half to give FEU the driver’s seat.
Melecio, who was shackled to 11 points on a 5-of-15 shooting, halted FEU’s run and made it a four-point game, 58-62, with 1:22 remaining in the third period.
Tolentino sparked a late-game turnaround with a booming triple that made it 58-56 for FEU with 3:26 remaining, before Jasper Parker and Hubert Cani engineered a 7-0 Tamaraws blitz to seal the outcome.
“It’s a good feeling to get our first win of the season. It’s really hard when you’re against La Salle, but this is a big improvement from our last season,” Racela said.
Mbala jumped ship almost immediately after the previous season ended in favor of a stint in the Korean league, and so did Aldin Ayo, who is now with University of Santo Tomas, and gusty forward Ricci Rivero, who is serving his residency with the University of the Philippine Fighting Maroons.
Kenneth Tuffin added 11 points and four rebounds, while Alex Iñigo had 10 points, six rebounds and three assists for the Tamaraws.
Leonard Santillan had a double-double of 19 points and 10 rebounds, but his efforts were not enough to save De La Salle, which had a second-best 12-2 won-loss sheet last season.
Ramon graduated with a degree of Bachelor in Journalism from Polytechnic University of the Philippines Manila. He is currently taking Masters of Asean Studies in University of the Philippines.