By: Toby Pavon
Good morning, klasmeyts. You’re waking up to the Adamson Soaring Falcons- part of the UAAP Season 85 Final Four cast. After the arduous climb, the shared anticipation, stress and hopefulness that comes with cheering for this team, you feel like you’re on top of the world right now, and rightfully so. Go grab that cup of coffee, it’s going to taste really good right now.
After all, why not celebrate this momentous occasion? The Soaring Falcons, often counted out, have barged their way into post-elimination round basketball through a culmination of all the lessons they learned within the season. Once the victory high wears off and the caffeine starts to kick in, you’re going to realize how much more there is for the Soaring Falcons to climb- and it’s okay.
The reality is, that after making it through a grueling play-off against DLSU, Adamson’s journey doesn’t end, in fact it only gets tougher from here. In front of them is the mountain that is Ateneo, a team they have not beaten since the season opener of Season 81 when Adamson was arguably at its best form it has ever been. Under the tutelage of coach Nash Racela, Ateneo has proven to be a persistent thorn on Adamson’s side, never quite figuring out how to beat them, or even come close. And so, facing off against them, with a twice-to-win disadvantage, it’s a cold splash of reality that the summit is still so far off.
Yet that’s not reason to despair, because looking at where they are, they’ve already climbed up so high. Just a round ago, the Soaring Falcons were sitting at 6th, well away from the Final Four picture. AP Manlapaz was sidelined after just one game, Joem Sabandal sat out a few games too, and the climb started to feel even more arduous when Jerom Lastimosa and Vince Magbuhos sustained injuries at the start of the 2nd round. There was a real sinking feeling that… maybe we wouldn’t get there, that the Final Four would yet again be too steep a climb and that we’d have to wait another season to try again.
But you’re sipping that delicious Final-Four-placer coffee right now, and that’s because of a second wind, a sudden realization, that started with a loss. Yes, a loss to DLSU in the 2nd round, the one where CJ Austria hit that glorious game-winning three pointer against Adamson. It was in that game that we fans realized that, there’s a lot more fight in this team that we thought.
Without Jerom Lastimosa, Vince Magbuhos and AP Manlapaz, the Soaring Falcons went toe-to-toe with DLSU on hot shooting by Joshua Yerro and Aaron Flowers. They showed that they can make their shots, which boosted their confidence, and raised the hopes of the Adamson hopefuls. And that extra energy fueled their continued ascent. Step by step they climbed the path, confident that they have the strength to pull through, but careful not to falter.
First it was against UE that they showed that Adamson is not a one-man team. Then against FEU where they showed that they have the flexibility to change their style when needed. Jerom Lastimosa played significant minutes for the first time since his injury, en route to the most efficient scoring performance he’s had all season long. Against NU, it was back to basics, a grind out game that ended with heroics from Jerom Lastimosa, something everyone knew he had in him.
Then came their biggest road block, Ateneo. If they could overcome them now, then their ascent to the Final Four would have been asured. Alas, they got close, they forced a late game run, but ultimately didn’t have enough in them to get the job done, yet.
Reaching the Final Four came down to one game, against DLSU, the same team against whom they found their second wind. In this all-or-nothing game, the Falcons looked nothing like the team that lost their opening day game to UST.
When you look back at where Adamson started its climb, you’ll find a team that shot 20% from beyond the arc against UST. You’ll see a team that was plagued by trap after trap against Jerom Lastimosa. You’ll find a team that could hardly keep their turnovers below 20. You’ll find a team that looked lost whenever their top scorer went to the bench.
How far they’ve climbed.
Atop the Final Four peak, Adamson shot 38.7% from beyond the arc. Jerom Lastimosa no longer finds himself bothered by traps, en route to that 11-0 personal run he went on in the 3rd quarter. The team, against one of the stingiest defenses in the league, kept their turnovers to 15. And most importantly, even if it was always going to be the Jerom Lastimosa show, at no point in the game did it feel like he was alone.
The Soaring Falcons have unlocked their final form. They have reached the Final Four with the summit still in sight. Yes, there’s still a tough climb ahead, but it doesn’t mean we can’t stop to appreciate just how high and how far they’ve come. This is the first time the Falcons have been in the Final Four since tragedy struck in Season 81. It has been an uphill climb ever since then, and even until now, it still is. But if they stick to their gameplan, keep their confidence and push on forward, no mountain will be too high for these Falcons to soar above.