The mighty have fallen.
The Ateneo Blue Eagles uncharacteristically collapsed in their opening game against the Adamson Soaring Falcons, absorbing a tough 74-70 loss on Sunday.
Many predicted that the reigning champions would cruise through their title defense, especially with the way they over-achieved in the offseason, but the Blue Eagles surprisingly received an early wakeup call.
This is not to take anything away from Adamson. Coach Franz Pumaren and the rest of the coaching staff prepared the Falcons well and their three-month long scouting paid off in a statement win.
Veterans Matt Nieto and Thirdy Ravena admitted they crashed back down to earth with this humbling experience.
"Maybe this is the Lord's way of putting us back on the ground after our achievements. It's better that it happened now rather than later in the season," said Nieto.
"This game really put us back on the ground in terms of preparation," echoed Ravena. "I'm not saying that we're arrogant but with the way Adamson played, we were given another challenge that we need to work on."
Ateneo was leading by ten in the second quarter, but the 11-point turnaround that Jerrick Ahanmisi and Jerom Lastimosa sparked in the final minute of the first half completely changed the complexion of the match. The Falcons brimmed with confidence the rest of the way.
"Credit to Adamson and their scouting, they were ready for us. They really have different defenses for specific players like Thirdy," said Nieto.
"I think Adamson really deserved the win. They came out incredibly prepared first of all, and they wanted it more. They deserved credit for everything they've done and they deserve the win," added Ravena.
The Blue Eagles had multiple opportunities to regain control but they failed to execute when it mattered. They botched several possessions that led to their demise. As a team, they only shot 28 percent from the field and committed 19 turnovers that Adamson converted to 15 points.
"The whole team played differently today," rued Nieto. "We're happy that we still have room for improvements but we're still disappointed with what we showed. We don't deserve to play here if we're going to play that way."
Nieto tried to turn Ateneo's fortunes around, accounting for 12 of his team's 19 points in the fourth frame.
"I just want to win. I don't want to lose because I'm really a competitor. I just want to do what I can for the team. We just really fell short," said Nieto.
Expect this rude awakening to light a fire under the defending champs as they get ready to face the rest of the teams that are all itching to defeat them.
"I can say that this is not our normal psychological state, even if we don't admit it," said Ravena. "But we will come back tomorrow once we get back on the court to make sure that we're well-prepared."
"We know that every team is motivated to beat us, not just Adamson but every team in the UAAP," Nieto said. "We always have targets on our backs. They're really hungry to beat us so we just have to outwork them and prevent them from executing their game plan against us."