MANILA, Philippines – The effects of the Adamson University Soaring Falcons resounding win against the Ateneo de Manila Blue Eagles were tremendous.
They spoiled the Blue Eagles' bid for a rare 14-game sweep of the UAAP eliminations, and in the process, denied them an outright berth in the Finals.
More importantly, these veteran Soaring Falcons team became the first Adamson five in 14 years to win against the Blue Eagles.
After the game, Adamson coach Leo Austria was overwhelmed, as the implications of their achievement dawned on him.
"We arranged the Final 4 and we got the twice-to-beat advantage," Austria said.
For the Adamson mentor, the victory had a mental and emotional impact on his team.
"The most important thing for Adamson, they will believe that the team is capable of winning a championship," Austria said.
"But this game is more than a championship," he added.
Alex Nuyles had to fight back tears after his team's win against the Ateneo Blue Eagles.
History and legacy
"Yung drought na nangyari sa Adamson against Ateneo, ngayon wala na," said Austria.
It took Austria 11 games before he was able to notch a victory against Ateneo. He remembers how, in 2006, his team suffered 3 very painful losses against the Blue Eagles.
"In 2006, 3 times kaming tinalo, lahat one point, lahat one possession," he reminisced.
With this victory, Austria and his band of Falcons etched their names into the history books.
"Malalagay sila sa history ng Adamson, maganda yung legacy na iiwanan nila. Whatever happens, they beat Ateneo," Austria said of his team.
"Hindi na kami makakalimutan," echoed Adamson star player Alex Nuyles, who led his team with 21 points.
"This is the sweetest win para sa Adamson,”" Austria said. "God is so good to us, and he gave us the win na inaasam ng lahat."
"I'm very proud of my team, they followed all the things we want to do. It’s a big statement for them... I'm happy to see them win against a very dominant team like Ateneo," he added.
The game had become more important for the Falcons after they lost in their previous game against the University of Sto. Tomas – a game wherein they led by double-digits in the first half, only to see the lead disappear thanks to a barrage of 3-pointers from the Growling Tigers.
"After the UST loss, I had 2 sleepless nights," Austria admitted. "I thought na parang hindi na ako marunong mag-coach."
He said that instead of practicing, he called a team meeting and allowed the players to air out their concerns.
"I told them, we are one big family. We have to help each other," he said.
A systematic win
For the Falcons, the victory was the culmination of 3 years of hard work.
"We've been together for the last 3 years, with the system," said Austria. "I told them, wag lang kayong gagawa ng hindi natin ginagawa. We don’t have to change the system!"
"We developed the system for 3 years, we don't have any plans of changing it, and we just believed in our system," he emphasized.
Austria implemented a system that turned the Falcons into an organized, disciplined offensive unit, a team that swings the ball around and consistently finds the open man – usually for a 3-pointer or a midrange jumper.
On defense, the Falcons force opponents to play their pace and funnel driving players into their big men Austin Manyara and Rodney Brondial, who have both turned into fine post defenders.
In the pivotal game against Ateneo, the Falcons followed Austria's system to the letter – and it resulted in a win 14 years in the making.
"Pag kalaban mo Ateneo, yung isang paa mo ay nasa hukay na," Austria said. "We are very fortunate, na hindi nag-give up ang mga players. I told them, just play your game. Nothing will happen as long as you're playing according to the system.
"Win or lose, I will be proud of you," he said.