Philippine Patriots defend home soil vs Thailand Tigers
by rick olivares
"Our biggest problem is team chemistry," pronounced Philippine Patriots coach Louie Alas some two hours before their first home game against the visiting Thailand Tigers. "Kahit sa fastbreak nagkakahiyaan pa. But hopefully, with our new additions and this time that the team will be in Manila for our home games, we can address that."
Alas was referring to new additions Val Acuña, Elmer Espiritu, and Nonoy Baclao to a squad that was formed two months ago for the fledging Asean Basketball League. The team played two away games winning their first assignment against Satria Muda Indonesia and losing to the Singapore Slingers for an even 1-1 slate.
There was some concern at first whether people would come out to watch the Patriots play at the Ynares Sports Arena in Pasig City. But by halftime, several hundred people trooped in to cheer on the home side.
And as hoped, Espiritu and Baclao provided the spark to get the Philippines going with their defensive intensity and all-around game.
Espiritu's high wire act netted him 8 points, 3 rebounds, and 4 blocks. Baclao on the other hand finished with 6 points, 5 rebounds, 2 assists, and 5 blocks.
The Ateneo Blue Eagle captain's umbrella-like defense on Thailand's American imports Ikenna Nwankwo and Chaz Briggs had the crowd roaring. He stayed step-by-step with Nwankwo as he drove in for a lay up only to have it sent back down. And minutes later, Baclao rejected a Briggs slam as the hammer was going down.
Nwankwo played for the UCLA Long Beach 49ers while Briggs played for the West Virginia University Mountaineers in the Big East.
"They (Baclao and Espiritu) gave us a lot of energy," said a satisfied Alas after the 74-61 whitewashing.
After a closely fought first quarter that saw the Patriots go up 18-14, the Filipinos behind Rob Wainwright and Jerwin Gaco dropped a 24-8 bomb in the second quarter where they threatened to turn the match into a rout.
But Thailand's American coach Chuck Davisson, who served as an assistant to Sidney Lowe in the Minnesota Timberwolves before mentoring the Dallas Defenders of the Premier Basketball League, got his team to play a tighter zone at the resumption of hostilities. The visitors outscored the Philippines 28-18 in the 3rd Quarter to make a game of it. But by the forth quarter, Baclao and Espiritu put the clamps on the opposing team's Americans to help the Patriots' debut on home soil a smashing one.
Philippines 74 - Gaco 15, Powell 9, Wainwright 9, Dixon 9, Espiritu 8, Baguion 7, Baclao 6, Daa 5, Ybañez 4, Acuña 2, Sta. Maria 0, Mirza 0
Thailand 61 - Briggs 15, Doruelo 15, Nwankwo 12, Ricafuente 8, Piroon 7, Kruatiwa 2, Lertmalaiporn 2, Kaedum 0, Ruankum 0