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Pumarens promise to bounce back

By Jerome Lagunzad

Games Wednesday
(Smart-Araneta Coliseum)
2 p.m. — UE vs FEU
4 p.m. — UP vs Ateneo

Pick up the pieces and move on.

That’s exactly what Adamson coach Franz Pumaren instructed the Soaring Falcons to do after they suffered a crushing 85-65 loss to the Ateneo Blue Eagles at the start of the UAAP Season 80 men’s basketball tournament over the weekend.

With Cameroon import Papi Sarr, still recuperating from a groin injury, reduced to a mere spectator from the bench, the Soaring Falcons struggled all game long as the Blue Eagles, led by Nigerian import Chibueze Ikeh, pounded the ball inside and crashed the boards at will.

“Ikeh just dominated us. We tried containing him, but he really played well,” admitted Pumaren of the 6-foot-8 Nigerian who already had a double-double in the first half before he finished with 18 points in just 10 attempts and hauled down 17 of Ateneo’s 60 rebounds, 25 more than Adamson’s output.

It could have been a different story had the 6-foot-7 Sarr, last year’s runner-up in the MVP race, suited up. But Pumaren is not one to cry over spilled milk.

“I don’t dwell on that. I’ve been coaching for the longest time but you’ll never hear from me na ‘Sayang, kung this player is here…’ You always prepare for the worst scenario. And that’s just part of my job: make the most out of your remaining players,” stressed the five-time UAAP champion coach.

“It’s a case of Ateneo played well and us played bad. Ang advantage lang is this is the first game, we still have 13 games to win. We saw what we need to work on, we saw our weaknesses, we saw our strengths. Back to basics with us.”

Pumaren’s elder brother, Derrick, also suffered an early setback after University of the East fell prey to National University 86-69.

Derrick, just like Franz, told the Red Warriors to regather their acts right away.

“Hindi naman siya nagalit. Nag-remind lang siya sa amin na masyado kaming excited sa opening game. Sa next game (against Far Eastern U on Wednesday), tingin ko magiging okay na ‘yung laro namin,” said top UE wingman Alvin Pasaol, who finished with 14 points in a losing cause.

Adamson plunges back to action against University of Santo Tomas on Saturday and Sarr is hoping he can get the clearance from his doctors in time.

Still, there was a tinge of regret for Sarr after seeing the Falcons get outplayed by the Blue Eagles on both ends.

“I was really frustrated seeing my team go down against Ateneo. We were supposed to beat them and I didn’t see anything new with them,” said the African big man. “But its okay, it’s part of the game. I’ll just try to focus next game. Hopefully I’ll get better so I can help the team next game.”