After barely squeaking by UP, the Ateneo Blue Eagles looked to wrap a Final Four berth against the cellar-dwelling Adamson Soaring Falcons. The winless Falcons put up a stiff challenge through three quarters before finally relenting the Blue Eagles’ attack, falling 67-52 on September 6 at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City.
The Blue Eagles’ offensive attack got off to a woeful start, scoring just 10 points in the opening quarter behind a dismal 2/13 mark from beyond the three point arc. Fortunately for the Blue Eagles the Falcons were even more inept on the offensive end, scoring just four points in the quarter.
Ateneo’s three point woes played into the hands of the Adamson zone, which packed the paint with bodies, denying King Eagle Kiefer Ravena and the rest of the Ateneo dribble drive offense easy looks at the basket daring the Blue Eagles to beat them from beyond the arc. The Blue Eagles settled for long range attempts time and time again, taking 16 three point attempts in the half compared to just 14 two point field goal attempts.
The Blue Eagles did find success defending the young Falcons with strong man defense and quick and effective double teams when Adamson attempted to post up their forwards and centers. While the Blue Eagles managed to hit just 3/16 of their first half three point attempts, the Falcons shot even poorer from long range, hitting just one of their eight attempts. Ateneo and Adamson shot 23.3% and 22.2% from the field respectively.
The Blue Eagles won the second quarter 13-12, giving them a 25-16 cushion at the half time break.
Adamson’s third quarter offense was buoyed by the versatile Celedonio Trollano’s seven points. Trollano showed off his entire offensive game hitting shots from the perimeter and scoring off quick post ups. Trollano would lead all scorers in the game with 20 points.
Despite the offensive output of Trollano, the Blue Eagles’ lead was kept safe by the play of Rookie of the Year favorite, Arvin Tolentino who scored all six of his points in the quarter, four of which came on the fast break after the Adamson guards coughed up the ball in the backcourt.
A valiant offensive quarter by Adamson, which scored a game high 21 points in the fourth, was negated by the most effective quarter of Ateneo offense scoring a hyper efficient 26 points in the final frame.
The Ateneo offense finally broke through in the fourth quarter led by their two biggest stars, Ravena and Chris Newsome. Ravena’s dribble penetration began to pay dividends for the Blue Eagles by dumping off to cutting big men. The penetration afforded Newsome all the space he needed to finally get on track after being limited by the Adamson zone and foul trouble.
The win secures Ateneo a berth in the Final Four after missing the playoffs last year. The loss drops Adamson to 0-13 with just one game remaining. The Blue Eagles will play the first place FEU Tamaraws in their regular season finale on Saturday, September 13.
“I was wary of our energy levels, this being our third game in seven days. But I’m happy we have one week to prepare for FEU,” said Blue Eagle head coach Bo Perasol.
When asked about the Blue Eagles lackluster performance in their last two games Bo Persasol attributed it to their mental fortitude.
“It was in our mental set-up against UP and Adamson. We thought we could coast against them.”
Coach Persasol expressed a sense of relief in securing a playoff berth but reiterated that they had bigger goals than that.
“We’re gunning for a top two spot. We’ve secured a place in the Final Four but the next step is to finish in the top two. We’ve put ourselves in a very good position to do that.”