The surprise of the opening weekend of the UAAP was undoubtedly the Adamson Falcons' 74-70 win over defending champions Ateneo Blue Eagles. It was a stunning performance that catapulted the Falcons over this season's title favorites.
But if you ask any of the Falcons and their head coach Franz Pumaren, there was no secret formula for beating a high-caliber team like Ateneo.
"First of all of course, kudos to my coaching staff. I think they really did a splendid job scouting Ateneo and of course to my players because they followed our game instructions," said Pumaren.
For the last couple of months, Pumaren and his staff have kept a close eye on last season's champions. The Blue Eagles were seemingly invincible after their preseason showing. They trained in Greece, won the FilOil Flying V Preseason Cup, and even represented the country in the William Jones Cup in Taiwan. The best UAAP team looked to be a cut above the competition. The Falcons however were unfazed and relied on preparation more than anything.
"I think it worked to our advantage we were really able to scout them. We were able to dissect their team," Pumaren said about observing Ateneo during the preseason. "In fact, I had sleepless nights just reviewing their games in the Jones Cup. You could imagine the stacks of videos that I was watching every night trying to assess their weakness because I think this is the best Ateneo team that I've seen in terms of depth. Every position I think they're three, four players deep."
On Sunday, their preparation paid off. The Blue Eagles' usually reliable offense had trouble finding the bottom of the net thanks to the defensive execution of the Falcons. Ateneo was held to a dismal 28 percent shooting and committed 19 turnovers. In the pivotal third quarter where the defending champions made a living the past season, they struggled for only 12 points. Even when Matt Nieto had a personal onslaught in the fourth, the Falcons stood their ground in the final minute to secure the win.
"We'd been working hard for this game. We got a lot of adjustments, we got a lot of preparation," shared Papi Sarr, who hit the go-ahead basket with less than 40 seconds remaining. "Actually I'm not surprised because the way that we've been working hard for this game, that was the result today, so I have to give credit to the coaching staff."
"The coaches have been preparing us a lot and preparing us very well in this game," echoed Jerrick Ahanmisi. "We started scouting them like months and months ago before this game. The coaches did a good job and also whoever was on the court they played 100 percent every time they went in. I'm glad we came out with the win."
Adamson's emphatic victory sends a loud message to the rest of the league that the mighty Blue Eagles can be defeated and that the Falcons should be considered one of the top teams this season as well. However, Pumaren was quick to water down the hype and the expectations.
"We still have to prove ourselves. Winning one game against Ateneo won't make us a championship team," Pumaren pointed out. "We're still a team struggling to improve our position last season. I think we still have a lot of work to do."
If there's added pressure and expectations from beating Ateneo, you can be sure that the Falcons will simply rely on their preparation.