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Adamson hoping for a steadier glide

By Paolo Mariano Posted Aug 13th 2013

Adamson University could've easily landed higher in the team standings if not for bitter and close losses in the opening round.

Adamson University isn’t supposed to be in the thick of the fight if pre-season soothsayers are to be believed. But as usual, head coach Leo Austria has molded his under-the-radar squad into a cohesive fighting unit, still in contention for the Final Four and capable of upsetting all the favorites.

The Soaring Falcons are tied with De La Salle University and Ateneo de Manila University for fifth place in the team standings with 3-4 records. They, however, could’ve easily won more. They only lost at an average of 5.7 points in the first round, including a combined eight points in their last three assignments.

"Even though we're in the middle, I'm still not happy," said Austria. "All our losses have been close, in fact, we led in all of those games. But we always falter in the end. (Chalk them up to) breaks of the game, especially that controversial game versus La Salle and our game against FEU, napasok pa rin ni (Terrence) Romeo 'yung tres kahit pagkalayu-layo (Romeo was still able to drain the three-pointer even it was from way out)." 

But the good news is their bitter defeats happened early in the season. Now, they have a chance to correct their mistakes, especially in closing out games. They held team-building sessions in Antipolo during the break to primarily tackle their mental lapses and faulty decision-making in crunch time.

"They all know what to do, they all have the heart, kaso minsan, kulang sa utak (but sometimes, they don't use their heads). The break really helped us re-focus. We know we still have a strong chance, one win could spell the difference," said Austria.

Adamson has what it takes to be a fluid offensive squad. The Soaring Falcons lead the league in field goal percentage with 42.5%, while dishing out a decent 14.0 APG, only shades behind the frontrunners. They just need to spread the point production with only four players tallying at least 7.0 PPG.

As expected, electrifying guard Jericho Cruz is piloting Adamson’s flight. He leads the team in scoring with 16.7 PPG, good for fifth in the league, while adding 5.1 RPG and 3.6 APG. He, however, needs to improve on his shot selection, especially from deep, where he is only averaging an anemic 21.1% on 5.4 attempts per game.

Backstopping him is graduating wingman Roider Cabrera, who is putting up a career-high 11.3 PPG. If Cruz is in love with the three-point line, then Cabrera is downright obsessed. He already had 48 long range tries in the first round, almost doubling his 25 attempts from two-point area. The good thing is he’s shooting at a respectable 35.4% from rainbow country.

But what the Soaring Falcons lacked in offense in the first round, they made up for laudable defense. They are the fourth stingiest team in the league, only allowing 68.9 PPG on 37.9% field goal shooting. Their lockdown D is what’s keeping their heads afloat despite not having ample firepower.

The frontline duo of Rodney Brondial and import Ingrid Sewa anchor Adamson’s defense, with the former leading the season in shot blocks with 1.7 BPG and the latter not far behind at fourth place. Their rag-tag collection of lengthy, agile, and versatile forwards—Jansen Rios, Don Trollano, Harry Petilos, and Rian Abrigo—is also a huge factor in the team’s defensive effort, tallying a combined 7.4 RPG in only 9.2 minutes per outing.

"I'm happy that the players are learning. Plus, what I like about them is they don't give up, they don't back down. We just need to be more consistent," said Austria, who also admitted that he's still looking for the right combination of players.   

If there’s an area Adamson badly needs improvement, it’s taking care of the ball. The team is dead last in turnovers with a headache-inducing 17.6 errors per game. But aside from that, if their opening round performance is any indication, the crew from San Marcelino should be even more dangerous in the succeeding games. 

"You'll see a different Adamson (in the second round). We'll fight up to the last second. We'll have a different attitude, a different enthusiasm for the game. We're well-motivated because we know that our goal (of advancing to the Final Four) is achievable," proudly rued Austria.   

It’s no surprise that the affable tactician has once again sold his disciplined system to his wards. Now, it’s up for his boys to execute if they want to fly all the way to the top.