ANTIPOLO - One thing's clear for Adamson coach Franz Pumaren after his side's 62-48 defeat to Ateneo on Sunday: the race to the UAAP Season 81 Final Four has already hit the homestretch.
"This game is a testament that the playoffs started tonight," he said. "The atmosphere was different, the intensity was different."
With only five game days left in the schedule, the term "every game counts" couldn't get any truer for Pumaren, who wants his Soaring Falcons to pick up the slack heading into their last three assignments.
And a perfect example of how they shouldn't play is their performance against the Blue Eagles.
"We were too relaxed, I guess, thinking we can always turn it on and off," the bench tactician said as Adamson fell behind early, 41-21, and failed to recover in time as it shot 27-percent from the field.
"It's just a matter of simple analysis. They played well, we played bad. We were taken out of our comfort zone. We couldn't convert. It's just our offense, we didn't execute well."
Pumaren, though, took pride on the Soaring Falcons' defense, keeping the Blue Eagles to just 62 points and also forcing them to turn the ball over 22 times.
"Coming from a team that's been on a massacre mission, they just scored 62 points. So for me, we still had a decent defensive effort for tonight's game. We forced them to 22 errors, and for a no. 1 team, I think that's an accomplishment on our part. Just imagine if we didn't force them (those turnovers), baka mas malaki pa ang lamang."
Still, Pumaren was glad to have tested Adamson's mettle against Ateneo as he hopes to reacquaint themselves come the playoffs.
"We have to give credit to Ateneo. They came out with a lot of fire, a lot of intensity. They really wanted this victory," he said. "It's nice playing against Ateneo. They make the best out of me and the best out of the team because coaching against a very experienced coach. Hopefully, we can still meet each other."
But the veteran bench strategist knows that nothing's certain at this point, and the Soaring Falcons must hurdle their final assignments against UST, UE, and FEU to lock up their spot in the semifinals.
"We just have to be mentally tough, make sure that each game is a different environment already. In the next couple of games, it's gonna be hard for us because we're gearing for the homestretch," he said.
"We just have to do our own job. We cannot rely on other teams beating the other schools for us to be assured. Hopefully, we can play much better than we played in today's game."