Birds of prey
Defending champion Ateneo and Adamson may have a lot more in common than their feathered monikers. They’re both up there in the UAAP standings. They unleashed a potent defense that suffocated their foes. And they try to live by a system that doesn’t thrive on hero ball.
The Falcons, unable to get the most from two of its top stars, forced University of Santo Tomas into crucial turnovers to hammer out a tense 79-71 victory Saturday in the men’s basketball tournament at Smart Araneta Coliseum.
With Papi Sarr and Sean Manganti struggling, the Falcons got contributions from the likes of Jerrick Ahanmisi, Simon Camacho and Kristian Bernardo to log their third straight win and protect their undefeated start to the tournament.
“My bench players proved that they are capable of stepping up,” said Adamson head coach Franz Pumaren. “In case you didn’t know, Papi is not 100 percent. He just played through sickness. Same thing with Sean, he’s not 100 percent his foot is bothering him.”
“But in spite of them having a bad night because of various illness and injury, I think this is a one game we were able to prove to ourselves that if we just play as a team, hold down the opponent, I think we can survive any game.”
Ahanmisi, who has emerged as the early MVP favorite, continued his torrid play with 20 points, including nine in the fourth quarter, to power Adamson.
The Eagles, the league’s reigning titlists, clamped down on National University right from the start and delivered a defensive master class en route to a 72-46 victory in the other game.
It was the second straight win for Ateneo after opening the season with a shock loss to Adamson.
“I thought our defense was the way we wanted it to be played,” said Ateneo coach Tab Baldwin. “Never any excuse not to play that way now so I like it when we set a standard, we set a precedent. Now we have something to live up to because NU, it’s not like they’re easy to beat.”
And while they relied on the usual stars, the Eagles got solid defensive contributions from a lot of players to send the host school to its second defeat in three matches.
The Eagles got going in the second quarter after a slow start to build a 33-18 halftime spread that ballooned to as much as 27 points in the final frame.
Thirdy Ravena collected 13 points, four rebounds and three steals through three quarters while Anton Asistio added nine points and Angelo Kouame had 12 rebounds, three blocks and five points.