It was the proverbial rise of the phoenix in Greek mythology retold and seen in high definition.
True to the Hellenic roots of its founding fathers, the Adamson University Soaring Falcons rose from the ashes of defeats at the hands of the Ateneo de Manila University Blue Eagles to end the UAAP’s longest losing streak to a team in style, 62-46, as the two birds of prey played their last elimination round game inside a swelled Araneta Coliseum on September 10.
Waxing hot early in the game with a booming trey from its sensational skipper Lester Alvarez at the outset, the Falcons made a strong statement that would send the Eagles back into the drawing board come their next game.
A far cry from the confused team that UST stunned a week earlier, the Falcons this time had an impeccable display of their much-vaunted defense that made behemoth Ateneo center Greg Slaughter look like a limbering giant. The clamp they put on Ateneo’s foremost arsenal was so shackling that he could only sink 10 points during the game. Kiefer Ravena, who went zero during their first encounter of the season, could only manage nine points. It proved that the jinx attributed to first-day jitters was not a fluke but was well-planned, well-executed and a stroke of genius on the part of the Falcons against the phenomenal rookie.
The rest of Ateneo’s stars like Nico Salva and Emman Monfort all threw bricks at the goal in frustration over the suffocating blanket that Adamson put up. Until that defeat, the Ateneo juggernaut was almost unstoppable which saw all teams falling 13 times until Adamson snapped it.
The last time AdU won against ADMU was on September 18, 1997 through a slim 54-52 tiff. Since then, it was a long series of heartbreakers for the San Marcelino-based dribblers against the other blue team from Katipunan. Even in what could be an almost winnable game for the Falcons, the Eagles have managed to squeak past their rival dramatically. In Season 66, a Ken Bono-led Falcons almost clinched a game with three ticks remaining in the clock with a two-point edge. An out-of-nowhere shot from then Eagle skipper Chris Tiu stole that chance, further prolonging the streak. In Season 67, a Luigi Trillo-mentored Adamson blew out a 25-point margin in the third quarter to hand down the Falcons another loss.
One rainy Saturday afternoon, however, the Falcons made sure it would not happened again. Workhorse Alex Nuyles zealously took the cudgel and conspired with his teammates to virtually shut the door for the Eagles to achieve a rare sweep. The 6”3’ athletic native of Bicol, who once dislocated his shoulder at a game while driving for a goal, was almost everywhere in the Falcons’ unrelenting attacks which silenced the usually animated Ateneo crowd. The Falcons shot perfect free throws from the line to emphasize their dominance in the game.
Just as the Eagles were about to stage a rally in the third quarter, Coach Leo Austria doused it with a timeout to reconfigure his plays. A long three-pointer from Nuyles in the same period characterized the tenacity of Adamson to prevent Ateneo from catching up. The closest that the Katipunan-based cagers could muster to inch closer was three points, 24-27, at the end of the first half. They never led in the game.
Nuyles poured 21 points, including 13 in the third canto where the Falcons burned the hoops with an 11-0 run to pull away for a 50-31 edge. Not far behind was Alvarez with 14 points, and showed effective leadership in the court to continue their furious scoring rallies. Eric Camson also showed his reliability off the bench, pouring in 6 points and nine rebounds. Even Kenyan center Austin Manyara showed that his improvement as a player continues by bringing four points, five total rebounds, and two steals. The Falcons converted all of their free throws into points.
The team’s strong statistics and gung-ho playing to end the ugly streak finally healed the 29 scars Adamsonians carried in their hearts for 14 years. Nuyles’s tears after the game had all but wiped them off in the second encounter of the Season 74. A telling 62-46 score is all that was left after the smoke has cleared–a 16-point margin finally quenching the 14-year thirst.
The 17,500-plus crowd during the game was one of UAAP’s biggest audience attendance in a single game, if not the biggest this season. Adamsonians also matched the presence of the Ateneans seated inside the Big Dome, an unusual happening for any of Ateneo’s opponents who are usually sidelined in crowd power whenever the Eagles are in contention. Mashhur S. Glang