The Adamson Soaring Falcons are having a ball of a start in UAAP Season 81. They sit atop the standings with five wins against just one loss and they are tied for first place with a team they beat on opening day — the Ateneo de Manila Eagles.
The Falcons have been playing beyond many observers’ expectations, buoyed in no small way by the splendid plays of Sean Manganti, Jerrick Ahanmisi and of course, foreign center Papi Sarr.
Ahanmisi is third overall in scoring with 17.8 points per game, while Manganti is not far behind with 13.8 points per encounter. Ahanmisi is also tied for second in terms of three-pointers made with 17 total and 2.8 per game.
Sarr, for his part, is third overall in rebounds.
As of this writing, Adamson leads the tournament in a few key categories. The Falcons are the top steals team with 7.8 per game, the fastest team with a pace of 79.31 and the best in scoring off turnovers with 16.7 points off turnovers per outing.
They are also the second-best team in terms of forcing opponents into errors as their foes commit 19.2 turnovers per contest.
For sure, coach Franz Pumaren has steered his team to a terrific start in Season 81, although its winning run came to a screeching halt this past weekend when it lost to Far Eastern University in overtime.
It was a valiant stand for the Falcons but they still ended up with the short end of the stick while also opening the door to questions about whether the team has peaked too early.
Remember that the Falcons — as good as they are — were not exactly title favorites heading into the season. So, their 5-0 start really took many by surprise and now that they’ve tasted defeat and will next face the hungry DLSU Green Archers, not a few feel Adamson is headed into some very bad turbulence.
This will test the team’s character and will be a barometer of whether its great start was a fluke or not. It’s not uncommon to find UAAP teams enjoy strong beginnings only to falter in the middle part or late in the season and Adamson seems in danger of falling into that trap.
This is where coach Pumaren’s experience and acumen will really come to the fore. And this is where Ahanmisi, Manganti and Sarr will need to produce more than just numbers. This will be the toughest challenge for their leadership and resiliency.
If the Soaring Falcons do make it through this phase and still remain a Final Four team by the end of the eliminations, they should be one of the most fearsome contenders out there.
Peaked too early? Not yet, but we’ll see how high the Falcons fly in the next few weeks.