MANILA, Philippines – For the first time since Franz Pumaren took over as head coach, Adamson University will not be playing in the UAAP Final 4.
A 63-60 loss to Far Eastern University on Wednesday formally eliminated the Falcons from semifinal contention in the UAAP Season 82 men's basketball tournament, with their record dropping to 4-8.
After a brutal loss to University of the Philippines last Sunday where they squandered a double-digit lead in the fourth quarter, the Falcons had needed to sweep the rest of their assignments just to stay alive in the race.
They faltered against the Tamaraws, however, with Jerom Lastimosa bricking a three-pointer at the buzzer that could have sent the game to overtime. Adamson's much-heralded backcourt struggled again: Jerrick Ahanmisi had 10 points on 3-of-19 shooting, and Val Chauca had just one point after missing all nine of his attempts.
"You know, we had an opportunity. We were one basket away. We just couldn't score in that particular sequence," Pumaren told reporters after the game. "If only we played the way we played during the second half, I don't think the outcome would be the same."
While obviously disappointed at their failure to make it to the Final 4, Pumaren sought to keep the situation in perspective.
He pointed out that despite having veterans like Ahanmisi, Lastimosa, and the one-and-done Chauca in their line-up, his team is still quite young.
"Half of my team are all rookies," said Pumaren. "They're young, coming off high school."
"I guess the lesson that we accomplished in this year's UAAP is, there's really no substitute for experience eh," he added.
Pumaren takes pride in how the Falcons remained competitive in most of their games despite having such a young lineup, and he believes that the experience they gained in Season 82 will be crucial to their development.
"We were eliminated in the Final 4 not because we were totally outplayed the whole time," he said. "No, we were always in the game."
"I think it will help us come next year. It's just like a young kid, you throw them in a deep pool and you ask them to survive that particular scenario eh," he also said.
"So, I guess it will make them a better individual, not only as an individual but also as a player come next year," he added.
The multi-titled mentor understands that the Adamson community will be dismayed at how their season played out, especially after three consecutive trips to the Final 4. But the coach hopes for patience from their fans, too, as he said this is part of the team's process.
"It's a work in progress, it's just like a cycle, having new guys. You have to start from somewhere," Pumaren said.
"It's a stepping stone that the program is still there, we develop. We're not a program that thrives on Band-Aid solution. We're a program that, start from scratch, develop players, and down the stretch, we will make an impact, not only in basketball but also in their personal lives," he stressed.
Adamson will still have Ahanmisi next season, after the shooting guard bared Wednesday that he intends to return for his final playing year.
Pumaren also expects young players like Joshua Yerro, Joem Sabandal, and AP Manlapaz to improve by leaps and bounds in Season 83.
The Falcons will end their elimination round campaign against University of Santo Tomas and De La Salle University, two teams that are still chasing Final 4 berths.
For more sports coverage, visit the ABS-CBN Sports website.