Is this the Soaring Falcons’ final form?

by: Toby Pavon

The Adamson Soaring Falcons had a rough takeoff in Season 85. Dropping their first game to UST was a massive disappointment for a team that was expected to better their previous season’s record, considering they’ve had more time to learn the system and get used to playing as a team. Their pre-season exploits gave fans a lot to be optimistic about, but until recently there was the constant feeling of Adamson’s failure to launch.

Early in the season it was the tendency of every team trapping Jerom Lastimosa into oblivion. This was coupled with an utter inability to make threes despite how open they were, often shooting at percentages lower than 20%. Sure they’ve had moments of reprieve where they squeezed out wins here and there, but nothing really showed them to be a championship caliber team– until now.

It all started with the FIBA break. UAAP hostilities were put on hold for a couple of weeks to give way to UAAP standouts Angelo Kouame, Kevin Quiambao and Carl Tamayo who were set to represent the Philippines in the FIBA tournament held in Jordan and Saudi Arabia. This was a much-needed cease-fire because leading scorers Jerom Lastimosa and Vince Magbuhos were forced to miss games due to injuries sustained in their match against UP. Neither had a clear timetable for their return, and for the Falcons which were already playing hurt with AP Manlapaz missing most of the season, this meant a huge disruption to their gameplan.

Fortunately the first sign of a switch being flipped was spotted in their 2nd round game against UST. It looked like a repeat of the opening day game was bound to happen until the 4th quarter happened. The Soaring Falcons hunkered down and decided to go with what worked, which was giving Cedrick Manzano touches in the paint. This allowed them to claw their way back from a 19-point deficit leading to the beauty that is the out of timeout play drawn up by Coach Nash to get the game winner.

This game was right before the FIBA break and the question on people’s minds was, “What is life for the Falcons without Lastimosa and Magbuhos?”

Everyone expected it to be a more Manzano-centric affair, building off the success they found against UST. But in their game against DLSU, the Falcons looked different.

They started making threes. An aspect of their game that plagued them all season long. Not only did they make their threes, it was Joshua Yerro and Aaron Flowers who were making threes, players that were previously criticized for not being known to hit threes.

Yerro and Flowers shot a astounding 50% from beyond the arc that game, effort that had the Soaring Falcons in the driver’s seat for most the game until the game winner by DLSU at the end. This DLSU later went on to down the top 2 seeds in UP and NU, so going toe-to-toe against them without their top scorers was no easy feat.

Okay, so the Falcons are going with, Yerro and Flowers as their new go-to guys, right?


Against UE, the Soaring Falcons moved the ball again and found contribution from new players again. Didat Hanapi who had not scored well all season dropped an efficient 13 points in a game which saw the Falcons lead by as much as 22 points. He shot an astounding 3/5 from beyond the arc that game and was complemented by Lenda Douanga who did his damage from the freethrow line with 7/8 shooting from the stripe. Cedrick Manzano was a beast in the paint getting 11 points and 12 rebounds.

The air of consistency and unpredictability was starting to grow for the Soaring Falcons. They weren’t solely reliant on any one or two players, and they had the ability to stay poised while finding their shots.

Then came the game against FEU. At the end of the first quarter the score board read 27-4 in favor of Adamson. It wasn’t a glitch, it wasn’t an error, that was really the score.

How did they do it? Poor shooting by FEU against stingy defense from Adamson, and Lenda Douanga.

Lenda Douanga has been much maligned by fans and critics alike because of supposed blunders he does on the court, but even then he has shown flashes of brilliance. This game, the flash was so bright it was blinding.

Lenda Douanga was perfect. A perfect 7 of 7 from inside the arc, a perfect 1 of 1 from beyond. Those 7 of 7 shots he took weren’t easy either. They were mid range shots, the “awkward” jumper that would have had most coaches pulling their hair at the sight of him even starting to attempt it. But not today. They went in, every single one of them. And that played a huge part in Adamson getting the win.

Lenda Douanga led the way to the amazing 27-4 first quarter against FEU by being a jumpshooter.

It’s like they’ve finally found a way to maximize Douanga’s sweet spots. And that wasn’t even the biggest revelation in that game.

Ever since a foot happened to be on his landing spot, Jerom Lastimosa the timetable for his return was hazy at best. Articles circulated that he was done for the season, so when he suited up against UE, was inserted to the game for 30 seconds to make freethrows, it was a huge boost of morale for the team and fans alike.

Against FEU, the coaching staff was wary of Lastimosa’s less than 100% state, and adjusted not only his minutes, but also his role. In the 16:35 mintues Lastimosa was on the court, this absolute madman shot 5/8 from beyond the arc, scoring 23 points without being the main ballhandler for the Falcons. While scoring has always been in Jerom’s blood, watching him rack up points in such an efficient manner was night and day from the struggles he and the Falcons had in the earlier portions of the season.

Jerom Lastimosa switches up his attack style to become a crazy efficient off-ball scorer, opting to pull the trigger soon after receiving the ball instead of starting the attack himself.

This new identity, the ability to look like a legitimate contender, it starts with the motor and persistence they’ve been bringing to the court since game one, but blossomed the moment they started making their jumpshots. When shots start dropping, the W’s come pouring.

These recent flashes of resilience, brilliance and composure are marks of a championship contender team, this looks a lot more like the Soaring Falcons that fans expected them to be, and it’s happening at the right time, BUT, there’s still one big hurdle to this claim. All their big wins have been against teams that are now out of contention from the Final Four.

Tied at 4th against DLSU, the Falcons need to sweep their remaining games in order to ensure that their chance at a Final Four spot stays within their control. But it will be a tough road as they will go against two teams that are vying for a twice-to-beat advantage, and so will play with utmost determination.

The Soaring Falcons are discovering their championship caliber form but the true test awaits them in their final games of the elimination round. Is this the peak for the Falcons, or will they have one more booster in reserve waiting to push them to even greater heights?

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