Ateneo's Forthsky Padrigao in action.
Where to, Ateneo Blue Eaglets?
Rick Olivares ( - February 14, 2020 - 1:52pm

MANILA, Philippines – The Ateneo Blue Eaglets fell to the Adamson Baby Falcons, 84-75, in the step-ladder format of the UAAP juniors basketball competition. 

Ateneo racked up an early 17-point lead, but it was quickly razed when Forthsky Padrigao and Francis Lopez went to the bench on account of foul trouble.

Yet in spite of that, Ateneo traded baskets and entered the fourth quarter leading 58-57. But with Lopez still on the bench, Adamson overhauled the deficit and put up a huge lead of their own to take the game.

It is a gamble Ateneo coach Reggie Varilla had to take. I understand. You hope that your bench players will step up and carry the cudgels until such time Lopez can be sent back in. Except they didn’t. By the time Lopez was sent back in it was too late, 75-60 was the score in favor of Adamson.

I think Ateneo isn’t the type of team that rallies back from huge leads. If they had a deeper bench, they could. Adamson’s bench outscored Ateneo’s, 16-6.

It is a painful loss and Ateneo has to take stock of this.

As I point out with the seniors squad, they take too many outside shots. Sure, it is the system, but I am surprised when a player grabs a rebound they have to bring that ball out for a reset as opposed to going back in — especially if the opposition isn’t set on defense. I think that Lazaro can do more than simply passing that ball outside. 

They take a huge volume of 3-point shots when in my opinion, they should really take the ball inside. That is why Adamson got two key Blue Eaglets in foul trouble because they kept attacking Ateneo’s weak interior. 

Of the eight teams, the one with the most number of triple attempts is UPIS with 525 attempts. Second is DLSZ with 494. Next up is Adamson and Ateneo with 472 and 464, respectively (but the latter two have played which 15 matches to the former two’s 14).

The top two teams — NU and FEU — have 408 and 395, respectively. And they are the top 3-point shooting teams. Adamson is ranked fourth in that category while Ateneo is sixth with a 23% accuracy rate.

To be very fair, it was difficult for this Eaglets team. 

They had seven holdovers and the rest were first-timers. I know it is difficult to bring up a wave of players and give them the experience they need. I thought that players like Gabby Salvador, Jazy de Ayre and Jynno Ladimo suffered from a case of nerves in the Adamson match. In fairness, too, they lost Sotto who went abroad. Had Kai (and Mason Amos) played this season, I’d say they’d give NU a run for their money.

As it is, Salvador is new and Ladimo didn’t see too much action in the previous year.

The Eaglets’ last title team came three years ago. But that was the batch that saw SJ Belangel, Jason Credo, Joaqui Manuel and Dave Ildefonso come up together with Kai Sotto and Gio Chiu coming up a year behind.

The quartet played three years together and they went through some disappointments before they won it all. 

The problem was, when they graduated, they left Sotto and Chou behind with Padrigao coming up from his residency. Jed Diaz, Joaquin Jaymalin and Daniel David were sorely lacking in minutes. They did not have any big game experience. So, when they were expected to step up, they struggled. 

Jaymalin played better this year because he now had the experience. 

Because of academics and recruitment challenges, Ateneo is unable to bring up waves of players like that.

Where do the Blue Eaglets go more so since other teams will be fielding African players next season – I have no idea. But they have to figure it out fast. All they have to do is look to the Ateneo High School Football team that was once the class of secondary grade football and now, FEU has taken over (the Blue Booters have not won in 10 years). 

Lazaro and Padrigao will be in their final high school seasons next year. 

I trust their brain trust is trying to figure out.

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