Shortly after getting eliminated by La Salle in the Final Four, Dawn Ochea exited the hardcourt for the last time in his UAAP career with clenched fists and tears running down his face.
Playing for Adamson from the time they were tagged as perennial whipping boys of the league until they transformed themselves as legitimate contenders last year, the 6-foot-4 forward hailing from Cebu has seen it all — except for an appearance in the UAAP Finals.
“Mataas sana ‘yung mararating namin ngayon eh, kaya namin umabot ng Finals this year,” a flustered Ochea can only mutter minutes after their semifinal exit.
True enough, the graduating forward has been with the Falcons when they were still minnows in the tournament, finishing dead-last in the standings for two straight years during Seasons 77 and 78.
Of their 28 games during that span, the Falcons only managed to win just four times.
Adamson’s fate, however, took a dramatic turn following coach Franz Pumaren’s arrival in San Marcelino.
Almost overnight, the Falcons shed their doormat tag and returned to the playoffs for the first time since 2011.
Although they got booted out by the Green Archers in Season 79, they proved that last year wasn’t a fluke when they finished third after this season’s elimination round to set a grudge match with La Salle.
Unfortunately, it was deja vu for Adamson in this year’s playoffs.
“Naging emotional lang kami, lalo na sila Rob and Terrence din who are also graduating. Gustong-gusto din naming makarating ng Finals eh,” Ochea shared.
The seasoned forward, however, is optimistic that the Falcons aren’t far away from realizing their dreams of getting into the Final Dance.
“For me, Adamson will be stronger next year kaya nagpapasalamat na rin ako ngayon sa experience.”
Ochea, who is looking forward to bringing his talents to the PBA D-League after his graduation, only has gratitude towards the Adamson community.
“Nagpapasalamat ako sa mga coaches ko ngayon, sa mga previous coaches ko. Sa staff ng Adamson, sa team, sa sponsors. Kasi ‘yung pag-take care nila sa mga players, hindi biro eh. Nandun talaga ‘yung suporta kaya nagpapasalamat ako sa Adamson at nagkaroon ako ng chance na makalaro para sa school na ito.”