MANILA, Philippines – Adamson University head coach Franz Pumaren could only shake his head after the Soaring Falcons succumbed to a costly defeat against University of the Philippines (UP) on Sunday.
In a game that was crucial to their Final 4 hopes in UAAP Season 82, the Falcons built a 12-point lead in the fourth quarter, only to fall apart in the end game. They could not contain UP veteran Jun Manzo, who sparked the run that propelled the Maroons to victory.
"I'll be a hypocrite if I tell you I'm not disappointed. Of course, I'm disappointed. It's a won game for us," said Pumaren after the Falcons suffered an 81-77 defeat.
"We prepared our game plan up to the hilt. It just happened down the stretch, we made some foolish decisions," added the coach, who expressed his dismay at the turnovers made by his veteran players in the closing minutes.
Errors by Val Chauca and Jerrick Ahanmisi fueled UP's run, and neither player could buy a bucket in the crunch. Chauca scored two points in the fourth period after exploding for 17 in the first half, while Ahanmisi was scoreless in the final quarter.
"Probably, if I'm the one playing right now, even at this age, I don't think I'm gonna lose the game for our team," Pumaren said.
The multi-titled mentor had every reason to be frustrated, as the loss dealt a blow to Adamson's semis chances.
A victory would have given Adamson a 5-6 win-loss record, tying them with De La Salle University for a share of fifth place. It would have put them just half a game behind Far Eastern University (FEU) at 6-6 for the fourth spot as well.
Instead, Adamson is now at 4-7, a game behind La Salle, and 1.5 games behind FEU. With only three games left in their elimination round schedule, their window of opportunity is closing.
"It's a must-win situation," said Pumaren. "Prior to this game, destiny was in our hands."
Adamson finds itself in a difficult position as the elimination round enters the final stretch. The Falcons have to win their last three games – against FEU, University of Santo Tomas, and La Salle – just to have a chance at a playoff for a semis spot.
"If that's the route that we have to (take), I guess we have to do it," said Pumaren.
The coach is not losing hope that they can pull off a winning streak, even though he knows that they no longer control their playoff fate.
"The way I look at it, because if you look at FEU, they are 6-6. We beat them, the best that they can get is 7-7," he said. "We win the next three games, we're gonna end up 7-7."
"La Salle is 6 right now, we beat them, they're gonna end up with 7 losses. Let's say they win their next couple of games, they're still gonna end up 7-7," he added.
"We're still in the situation," he stressed. "It all depends on us."
Adamson plays FEU on Wednesday at the Araneta Coliseum, in the first of three must-win games for the Falcons.
Already assured of the No. 1 seed is defending champion Ateneo, while University of the East and National University are both out of the Final 4 race.
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