The Adamson Soaring Falcons drew a lot of flak for opting to rest Sean Manganti and Jerrick Ahanmisi in their final elimination round battle against the FEU Tamaraws Sunday.
It was a non-bearing game for the Falcons, who already secured the second seed and a Final Four date against the UP Fighting Maroons. On the other hand, the Tamaraws needed a win to stay in contention and force a playoff against the De La Salle Green Archers for the last semifinal slot.
With Adamson missing the services of its best players, FEU had no trouble completing an 82-56 demolition job and keeping its postseason hopes alive.
"They have to understand. If your two top players, your two top gunners are not playing, it's gonna be difficult on our part," said ADU coach Franz Pumaren on the lopsided loss. "We're not only dependent on them for scoring, but we're also dependent on them creating situations, creating things, defending well. But things like that, it happens."
Pumaren insisted that he had valid reasons to keep his two stars on the sidelines. Manganti was nursing an ankle sprain that he sustained in practice last Friday, while Ahanmisi had been battling a fever and a sore throat since Thursday.
"If they want to validate if they're just playing sick, they can go to the hospital, they can check it," the coach said. "If they think Sean Manganti is just faking his injury, they can go to Focus Athletics, that he went there to get his treatment."
"Given that scenario, I don't think any coach for that matter will push the issue," Pumaren continued. "I think any team for that matter also, any school, given that scenario, I don't think you will push your injured players. They're not 100 percent, why push them?"
Affording to close out the elimination round with a no-pressure match was a testament to the Falcons' stellar season so far. Pumaren believes that no team should take that against them.
"This is a reward for all our hard work," he said. "It's nothing personal. Like I've been stressing, for the longest time that I have been coaching, I don't rely on other teams. We write our own destiny."
If it was the other way around, Pumaren said that he would focus only on the things that his team can control.
"We reverse the situation. If the other school is here and we're the ones waiting, the team we're hoping to win lost and we have to go through a knockout, I won't take it against that particular team on why they lost. We have no control over that," he explained.
Moving forward, the Falcons are optimistic that their top scorers can fully recover ahead of their Final Four duel with the Fighting Maroons on Sunday.
"We're doing an aggressive treatment with regards to the injury of Sean, same thing with Jerrick. We're doing what we feel we can to fast-track his recovery," said Pumaren. "I think it worked to our advantage that we have one week to prepare for the Final 4. Hopefully, by that time, they'll be okay."