Ateneo Blue Eagles assistant coach Sandy Arespacochaga lauded the Adamson Soaring Falcons’ coaching staff for making significant adjustments despite the underlying injuries of some of its key players.
After being down by as many as 15 points, the Nash Racela-led Adamson sparked an 11-2 run in the fourth quarter behind AP Manlapaz, who racked up a season-high 22 points on top of five rebounds and a block.
However, Adamson’s late-game rally was not enough to fend off the Blue Eagles, as they yielded a potential Final Four ticket to the Katipunan-based squad, 66-61, on Wednesday at the SMART Araneta Coliseum.
"You know if you’ll look at the games of Adamson, someone has stepped up for them in the second round in the absence of Jerom Lastimosa and it has continued even with Lastimosa back," Arespacochaga said.
"So I think credit goes to the Adamson coaching staff," he added.
During their last game against the third seed National University Bulldogs, it was Congolese big man Lenda Douanga who led the way for Adamson with 16 points and six rebounds.
"Next game we don’t know, it can be someone else but that’s how Adamson has been playing. Certainly surprised that it was Manlapaz, but not surprised that someone stepped up," Arespacochaga shared.
Adamson star Jerom Lastimosa played his usual minutes but was limited to 4 out of 15 shooting from the floor, while Douanga also struggled with a 23.1 field goal percentage.
Douanga’s availability for their do-or-die match on Sunday is still questionable after he stepped on the foot of Ateneo center Ange Kouame.
"Ngayon at least even from our end as coaches even when we pull him (Lastimosa), we’re confident na at least may two or three guys that will carry the floor without him," shared Adamson head coach Nash Racela.
Ateneo awaits their Final Four foe, the winnerr of the Adamson-La Salle clash at MOA Arena on Sunday.