Adamson head coach Kenneth Duremdes. Photo by Mark Cristino for ABS-CBNnews.com
MANILA, Philippines – The inexperience of the Adamson Falcons was evident in their first game of the UAAP Season 77 men's basketball tournament, as they were ambushed by the Ateneo Blue Eagles, 79-57, Sunday at the Araneta Coliseum.
While not much is expected of Adamson – a team that features 11 rookies – new head coach Kenneth Duremdes was initially optimistic that they can at least match up well with the Blue Eagles, who also have one of the smaller line-ups in the league.
Instead, the Blue Eagles feasted on the Falcons, with Kiefer Ravena exploding for 22 points and posterizing his defenders – including Adamson rookie Matthew Aquino – with a pair of slam dunks.
Duremdes, who took over Adamson after Leo Austria left at the end of Season 76, took his time with the team after their first loss, as it was over an hour before the Falcons left the dugout.
"We just reminded the players na it's not going to be easy for them," Duremdes said. "We always emphasized that they're rookies, but again, kagaya ng sinabi ko before, it's gonna be a quick learning process."
Duremdes said the Falcons need to toughen up mentally and physically – and to do so as soon as possible – if they hope to compete in a league as tough as the UAAP.
"Pag natagalan tayo dito, mahihirapan tayo," he said. "Because we are in a tournament na very tough teams ang mga kalaban natin, and if you are not tough enough, mentally and physically, hindi makakapag-antay ang basketball game para sa 'yo."
"Hindi makakapag-antay ang panalo sa 'yo. You have to work on it," he added. "Again, as much as we want to say na we're young, we're rookies, you're here to play. You're here to be tough."
"Whatever happens, you have to be stronger, and mentally tough."
Same game plan
Duremdes noted that Adamson and Ateneo actually had the same game plan. Both teams ran a 2-2-1 press to disrupt the other's offense, but the ploy did not work for the Soaring Falcons.
"'Yun ang naging problema. They kept on attacking, and kami, every time na ma-break namin 'yung press, sine-set up namin. Kumbaga, hindi namin sinubukan umatake," he said.
"So 'yun ang naging difference. Hindi namin na-realize na may mga opportunities to score at the time, unlike 'yung ginawa ng Ateneo na every time they break the press, talagang they see to it na we have to pay for it," he added.
Duremdes said they wanted to run the 2-2-1 press in part to energize the team right from the tip-off, but unfortunately, the Falcons still started out flat. This baffled the former PBA star, as he says that the Falcons have also been using the press in their practices and tune-up games.
"We're doing that for almost every tune-up game, and we were doing it well. Sabi ko nga sa kanila after ng game, walang pinagkaiba 'yung ginawa ng Ateneo sa ginagawa natin. It's the same 2-2-1 press," he said.
"'Yun nga lang, ang sabi ko sa kanila, the game plan for us is to disrupt the offense, to delay their execution, pero sa amin nangyari. Sa amin nag-back fire," he added ruefully. "So every time na ma-break namin 'yung press, down to 12, 13, 15 seconds na lang, at hindi na namin ma-execute."
Despite the huge loss, Duremdes still saw positives in his team's performance, especially from rookie Ivan Villanueva, who impressed with a variety of post moves and showed off range up to the three-point line.
"Ivan Villanueva, he's young, he's got more to learn, and he's undersized. But still, the guy's tough," said Duremdes.
"Give it to the boys," he added. "It's their first game and a big crowd. Maingay na territory, and they're not used to it, especially doon sa mga high school graduates na hindi naman masyadong exposed doon sa mga ganitong laro."
Still, he emphasized that the Falcons needed to grow up – and quick.
"Sabi ko, I know you're young, pero hindi makakapag-antay 'yung time eh. You have to work extra, double, triple," said Duremdes. "But so far, we're okay. Kailangan lang namin ipa-realize sa kanila na this game includes mental toughness and on a physical aspect ay kailangan tough sila."
"Nakita ko na nag-enjoy naman sila, dahil nga first time nga nila lahat," he added, "Pero ayun nga. We need results."