11 games in and no one has still scratched the perfect record of UAAP three-time defending champions Ateneo de Manila Blue Eagles. The closest that came to defeat the mighty Eagles were Adamson, during opening day, and FEU, at the start of the second round of eliminations. Will the Eagles go perfect? I do not know, but what I know for sure is they’ll be in the Finals. The sweep would be a blessing if it is granted.
Who can topple the Eagles from their roost? Talent-wise, rival DLSU had a shot, but we all know how that team turned out. But in reality, I see the FEU Tamaraws and the Adamson Falcons to be the best bet. Heck, even fans of the other teams have started rooting for the two when they went up against Ateneo. Not to mention, both these squads have motivation and personal reasons why they want to score the first loss for the Blue Eagles.
FEU nearly caught Ateneo’s number when they led by six, 57-63 with a minute and 16 seconds to go. But in true Morayta fashion, the team imploded when Emman Monfort and Kiefer Ravena willed the game into overtime. By far, this was the best showing of any team that fought Ateneo considering that FEU got demolished by 20 points in the first round. Also, the Tams have an axe to grind against the ballers from Katipunan. Having the best line-up in Season 73, the Tams got chased out of the then-Araneta Coliseum by the rampaging Ateneo squad en route to their third straight title. Take note, the Tams beat Ateneo convincingly in the eliminations in two wire-to-wire games but suddenly got skinned in the Finals.
Adamson, on the other hand, have came close to beating Ateneo for the past two seasons but just could not finish well in crunchtime. All games have been cardiac games, showing the mettle of the improved Falcons. But somehow, I do not understand why coach Leo Austria keeps on putting in Roider Cabrera during the important moments of the game. The guy only knows one thing when he touches that basketball whether it is the third pass or the first pass. Even with a hand in his face and no clear look at the basket, this guy will shoot, shoot and shoot. In all honesty, the reason Adamson lost that opening-day game against the Eagles will be because, with a seven point lead in tow, they decided to shoot threes when they could’ve padded the lead just by going for the deuce.
However, what’s going for the boys from Marcelino will be trying to break that 28-game losing streak against Ateneo. They haven’t beaten the Blue and White since 1997 when Gherome Ejercito still starred in an Adamson uniform. The closest they came in beating the Eagles was way back in the 2004 when Larry Fonacier suffered his season-ending ACL injury that destroyed the Blue Eagle faithful. Fortunately, LA Tenorio and JC Intal had other plans then and led a furious comeback at the turn of the second half. That step-back three-pointer from LA Tenorio to win the game is etched in my memory.
In anticipation of their September 10 date, has Adamson adjusted their end-game plans? Or will it be like last year’s second round match where the Blue Eagles just proved who was the better bird? Will the resolute champions hold fast in the face of a furious onslaught by Adamson if it comes to that or will the Falcons finally wound the proud Blue Eagles?
If Ateneo wins over everyone, the question to be begged in anticipation of next season, who can beat Ateneo?