MANILA, Philippines – The Smart Araneta Coliseum was close to empty on Wednesday afternoon, February 11. The first game, after all, was between a recently crowned champion crew and a young expansion team. But easy expectations did not matter as the small crowd was treated to an exciting game that ended in an upset.
Newcomer Blackwater Elite put an end to its 14-game losing streak dating back to the Philippine Cup with a breakthrough 80-77 win over last conference’s champions San Miguel Beermen in the 2015 PBA Commissioner’s Cup.
“We finally tasted the victory here in the PBA,” said head coach Leo Isaac. “It came a bit late. We really wanted to experience this victory a lot earlier going back to the first conference. But still, we are very thankful.”
Temporary import Marcus Douthit was everything Blackwater needed as he posted a game-high 20 points on 6-of-6 free throw shooting, to go with 11 rebounds and 4 blocks.
Guard Brian Heruela continues to be reliable this conference, scoring 11 points, grabbing 9 rebounds, and dishing 5 assists in the win. Bryan Faundo, who also emerged as one of Isaac’s dependable players, had a double-double of 10 points and 10 rebounds despite fouling out midway in the fourth.
The Elite, which won the 2013 PBA D-League Foundation Cup title before making the jump to the PBA in 2014, was a picture of frustration night in and night out for the last 4 months, unable to eke out a victory even against fellow expansion team KIA, and constantly breaking down in the endgame despite a good first 3 quarters.
So it was perfectly understandable that even though they were up by 3 in the final 10.6 seconds thanks to a Gilbert Bulawan putback, the Blackwater bench still had their poker face on.
But once their defense held up and the Beermen missed several three-point attempts to tie the game, the Elite finally let their guard down and raised their hands in ecstasy.
“Hopefully this win could turn things on the brighter side for Blackwater,” Isaac said.
It was no easy feat, however, as Blackwater had to overturn a 10-point deficit ending the first, and complete a 14-point turnaround in the third as they turned a 38-44 halftime deficit into a 60-52 lead entering the final frame.
San Miguel last led 71-68 after a Chris Lutz corner triple before Blackwater countered with a Douthit jam and a Heruela jumper, and Arwind Santos tied the game at 72-all as he split from the line.
Bambam Gamalinda, who finished with 7 points, knocked down his only triple of the game to break the tie and ignite a 6-0 swing to give his team a 78-72 edge with 1:21 left to play.
Ronald Tubid, who settled for 9 points and 4 rebounds, buried a three-pointer from the left wing to bring San Miguel to within 78-77 with 36 ticks remaining.
But Blackwater did not crumble this time as Gamalinda scored on the offensive rebound to send San Miguel to a 0-3 hole to start the conference.
Import Ronald Roberts had 18 points and 17 rebounds for the Beermen, whose kryptonite seems to be the expansion teams as they also dropped their opening game versus KIA just last week.
Lutz finished with 16 points on 6-of-12 field goal shooting, while Santos had 11 points and 9 rebounds.
Reigning PBA Most Valuable Player June Mar Fajardo did not play the entire fourth quarter and was limited to just 5 points and 9 rebounds. It was a bad night out for Fajardo, who played just over 18 minutes, as the Beermen were -15 with him on the floor. - Rappler.com