Monday, September 19, 2011

The Battles: ADU vs FEU S74 Final Four

The Marquee Names Battle
  • ADU's Lester Alvarez and Alex Nuyles versus FEU's RR Garcia and Terrence Romeo
This is a hard match-up to wrap your head around. In the first game, Alex Nuyles (20 points, six rebounds, two assists) was overpowered by the one-two punch of RR Garcia (16 points, eight rebounds) and Terrence Romeo (19 points, four rebounds, two assists). In the second game, Nuyles forced the issue too much (12 points on 3 of 13 shooting), Garcia was limited (11 points in 31 minutes) due to foul trouble, and Romeo (15 points, four turnovers, three in the fourth quarter) nearly handed Adamson the win. Lester Alvarez? He just basically stunk the entire series, totaling 14 points on 5 of 19 shooting, 2 of 11 from downtown, though six of his eight assists came in the do or die game.

There are extenuating circumstances though. Nuyles was not 100 percent due to an ankle sprain he suffered at the end of the first game. Head coach Leo Austria decided to play it safe, bringing him off the bench, but ultimately, he still played 30 minutes, the most of anyone on the team, but he didn't have the same lift, best seen when his fastbreak layup hit the bottom part of the backboard in the fourth quarter. Romeo's poor decision making has been an aspect of his game that FEU has had to live with all throughout this season, and the fact that he had gone several games without a crippling error meant that the Tams were really just living on borrowed time. Garcia was the victim of the referees "calling it tightly." And if you're surprised that Alvarez kept throwing up shot after shot, then you haven't been watching his game this entire season (he's 44/154 the entire season, or 28.57 percent shooting overall).

Ultimately, the thinking is that after explosive performances in the first game, both sides endeavored to shut the other side's superstars in the second match, leaving it up to the supporting casts to carry the game.

The "Other Guys" Battle
  • FEU's Cris Tolomia versus ADU's Jerick Canada
Both these guys came off the bench and out of nowhere, turning in some heroic performances to try to get their squad into the finals.

Jerick Canada used to be "the name" on Adamson, a long time ago, before Alvarez came on and basically stole his thunder. Credit to head coach Leo Austria, there was never a point guard controversy on this squad, with Canada graciously accepting the reserve role, sprinkled in with occasional starting stints. In yesterday's game, scored 10 of his squad's 14 points in the final period, including hitting back to back triples, and also made all four of his swipes in that quarter. Just to point out how out of nowhere his game was, prior to this match, Canada had never scored in double-digits, never hit more than one triple in a game, and never made more than one steal in a game.

Cris Tolomia on the other hand, found himself in a difficult position in his rookie year. After sitting out two seasons due to RP Youth U-18 commitments, Tolomia got onto the FEU Team A and discovered that Garcia and Romeo would be getting the majority of touches and minutes at the guard spot. No matter, Tolomia adapted well to the small forward spot, a necessity, given how often head coach Bert Flores is forced to go with three guards since JR Cawaling's injury. But Tolomia is a better defender than the other two, and may possibly be more clutch, as seen in his game-winner versus UST in Round One. But since their loss to UP in round one, Tolomia had not scored in double-digits, and was actually 0 for 13 in their last two games coming into this encounter. And yet, he played all 10 minutes of the third quarter and scored nine of his 19 in that period.

Unfortunately, only one player could be a winner, and that was Tolomia and his FEU Tams.

The Big Man Battle
  • ADU's Austin Manyara, Jan Colina, Eric Camson and Rodney Brondial versus FEU's Carl Bryan Cruz, Aldrech Ramos, Russel Escoto and Mark Bringas
Head coach Bert Flores was not happy in the first quarter. Mark Bringas was chucking up shots, 0/3 in six minutes, forcing him to bench the former San Sebastian Stag for playing out of the team concept. Then he saw Carl Bryan Cruz get into a near-skirmish with Adamson big men Eric Camson and Rodney Brondial. But the outcome of that incident made him smile. With unsportsmanlike fouls being issued on all three players, Cruz was the guy who came out of it fired up, finishing with eight points and four rebounds in 15 minutes. Camson only stepped up in the fourth quarter. Brondial never got going after a strong first game (four points, 10 rebounds, three blocks in 26 minutes, to just two points, four rebounds in 10 minutes).

It was always going to be about rebounding in this series. In the regular season encounters, which the two teams split, Adamson had dominated the glass, 85-63, 36-20 on the offensive glass. That got flipped on its head in the postseason, with FEU 99 - ADU 72 in total rebounds, 39-28 in offensive rebounds. During the last game, no Falcons hauled down double-digit rebounds. Aldrech Ramos had 12.

8 Things I Think
  • I think the best coaching move of the series was Bert Flores going to the three-guard line-up in the third quarter and riding it late into the game. The Falcons simply did not have anyone who could guard Tolomia, and he made them pay for it. 
  • It's surprising to me how no one has really mentioned Janus Lozada, or rather, his second half disappearance. Lozada played 15 out of the 20 first half minutes and was leading Adamson in scoring with nine markers. He played just eight minutes in the second half and did not attempt a single shot. Why didn't they go to him more often and ride his hot hand? How come coach Leo Austria didn't try rotating him on the FEU guards instead of matching up by going small with two point guards and Nuyles?
  • Austin Manyara was never really able to capitalize on his best UAAP game, a 13-point, 12-rebound performance versus UP, as he had to exit early with an ankle injury. He missed their next assignment and hasn't been as effective since. 
  • I don't think Adamson will be able to go back to the Final Four next season. Losing two veteran point guards is a huge blow to this team, especially when they only have Ryan Monteclaro as the other floor general currently on roster, who played a grand total of 16 minutes this season. They're okay at the other spots. Harry Petilos or Allen Etrone can split Lozada's minutes, plus Jericho Cruz, who impressed in this summer's Fil-Oil tournament will be eligible. Up front, Eric Camson will get the start in lieu of Colina, with Brondial splitting time between PF and C. 
  • Romeo's crippling errors have all been of the unforced kind, which says something about how easily this kid can get rattled. Matched up with Kirk Long and Kiefer Ravena in the Finals, the Eagles will be better equipped to force and pounce on his errors, than the Falcons could ever be.
  • Similarly, FEU is going to have a hard time using that three-guard line-up versus the Eagles. Ateneo's problem was that they couldn't match-up with the bigger Adamson guards. Putting out what is essentially three shooting guards will just delight the defending champions. 
  • Russel Escoto is a beast for playing with a fractured hand - and still coming up with some huge rebounds. 
  • FEU's biggest advantage is the possibility that JR Cawaling or Pipo Noundou will pull a Willis Reed and turn a close game around. Just by participating in warm-ups and sitting dressed on the sidelines, the Ateneo coaching staff will be forced to gameplan for these guys, even if it turns out they don't see a single minute of playing time.

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