Every game in their last five outings has been a do-or-die situation for the Adamson University Falcons.
The fourth-seeded Falcons will be in the same framework again when they clash with the top-seeded Ateneo Blue Eagles at 4 p.m. today in their first Final Four appearance since 2018 in the 85th University Athletic Association of the Philippines men’s basketball tournament at the Araneta Coliseum.
Earlier, the second-seeded University of the Philippines Fighting Maroons meet the National University Bulldogs at 2 p.m.
“Every game is a do-or-die game. That’s the mentality we had going into every game (last five matches). Kailangang manalo, manalo, manalo, and to stay alive,” said Falcons’ coach Nash Racela on their unexpected entry into the Final Four.
Their 80-78 triumph over the La Salle Green Archers in their fourth seed playoff, has set the Falcons up into another must-win showdown, this time with the Blue Eagles.
But it will be a different scenario this time around against Ateneo, which holds a twice-to-beat edge. Adamson had the same advantage back in 2018 after finishing at no. 2 spot behind the Blue Eagles.
Back then, the third-seeded Falcons lost twice to the UP Fighting Maroons, 71-73, and then 87-89, in overtime.
Racela said he challenged his players to step up and help their key player Jerom Lastimosa in their quest to make it past the Blue Eagles.
“It’s something we have to change. Kasi basketball is team game. We want to put emphasis not just on Jerom, but on the whole team,” remarked Racela.
So far, Lastimosa is one of the leading individual scorers in the league, behind top notcher Nic Cabanero of the University of Santo Tomas Growling Tigers with his average of 15.38 points.
Teammate Lenda Lounga backs him with 10.73 points and eight rebounds per game, along with Cedrick Manzano, who norms 7.73 points and 7.53 rebounds.
The Blue Eagles, who seized the no. 1 seeding with their 75-67 beating of the UP Maroons last week, are in their eighth Final Four appearance since 2014.
Coach Tab Baldwin said the Blue Eagles should not rely too much on their shooting, which he believes is a weak point this season.
Control of the boards by Angelo Kouame and Dave Ildefonso could make a difference in their effort to come back to the finals.
“When you do the job on the boards, and you dig down and play defense when it counts, good things will happen,” said Baldwin.
Ildefonso will spearhead the Blue Eagles’ cause with 12.07 points and 8.29 rebounds, while Kouame averages 11.79 points and 11.43 boards per game.