Barako finds the energy to shoot down Air21
Barako Bull 89 vs. Air21 79
by rick olivares
October 29, 2010
The Air21 Express were feeling good about themselves heading into the match against the reeling Barako Bull Energy Boosters. Both teams were heading into opposite directions with the Express having won two consecutive games over last season’s conference champions – B-Meg Derby Ace and Alaska – while the Energy Boosters were trampled on by a pair of double digit loses to Powerade and Barangay Ginebra.
Seven minutes into the first game of the Friday double header of the Philippine Cup at the Araneta Coliseum, Air21 head coach had his hand over his head while several of his starters were on the bench either due to foul trouble or their inability to get their game going.
Following a Ronjay Buenafe bucket that gave Air21 a 15-14 lead at the five minute mark of the first quarter, the Energy Boosters made life difficult for Express guard Josh Urbiztondo to direct the Express’ offense. That simple defensive gem turned the game around for the Energy Boosters as they took over the game from thereon with an 11-3 spurt to take the first quarter 25-18.
“I think there’s some consistency creeping into our system,” explained Barako Head coach Junel Baculi. “We cannot outshine other teams on offense but maybe we can outshine them on defense.” Bold words coming from Baculi whose team has given up an average of 81.5 points in five matches while scoring 72.2 for a 9.3 point differential.
And this despite having Sunday Salvacion in the line-up (15.8 ppg; 8th in scoring) and rookie Hans Thiele who has average 10.0 ppg and 10.0 rpg (one of two rookies to average a double double with the other being Air21’s Rabeh Al-Hussaini who has posted 16.2 ppg and 10.5 rpg in four games).
But one cannot fault Baculi’s troops for trying. After a half of play, they had held Air21’s triumvirate of Wesley Gonzales, Buenafe, and Al-Hussaini to a collective nine points. Barako Bull’s Mark Isip outscored the trio by his lonesome as he put up 17 points on the board as his team took a 46-33 lead.
Instead of turning their game around in the third quarter, Guaio’s boys still came out flat as Barako found more energy from bench player Aris Dimaunahan who quickly pumped in five points before turning the scoring chores over to Salvacion and Isip. The duo who Air21 failed to stop all game long eventually finished with 38 points to pace their team.
Barako Bull’s lead went up to 24, 69-45, following a jumper from the left wing by Salvacion with two to play in the third.
The Express did make a game of it in the fourth as veteran big man Carlo Sharma pumped in 11 points. Buenafe also added eight points of his own with four free throws in the final minute of play to bring the deficit down to eight at 79-87. But with 40 seconds to play, the Express, with other vital cogs shut down all throughout, didn’t have enough weapons to catch up.
“Malas,” uttered a disappointed Buenafe after the match.
“We couldn’t get our rhythm all game long,” offered team manager Johann Ramos.
“It’s just one of those days,” added Guiao.
“They might have been flat, but I think you have to give credit to our defense,” countered Baculi whose team held off a late surge by Air21 to bag its second win of the tournament 89-79. “We just took it to them.”
With the win, Barako Bull avoided a three-game slide that has befallen only B-Meg Derby Ace and Meralco this Philippine Cup. And the victory that put the Energy Boosters at 2-3 was only their fifth win in 23 games dating back to the last tournament.
Barako Bull 89 – Isip 23, Salvacion 15, Dimaunahan 13, Yee 9, Hubalde 8, Cruz 7, Thiele 6, Juntilla 4, Andaya 4, Duncil 0, Wainwright 0
Air21 79 – Buenafe 14, Sharma 13, Urbiztondo 10, Quinahan 9, Rodriguez 8, Matias 7, Gonzales 7, Baclao 4, Al-Hussaini 4, Arboleda 3, Guevarra 0, Najorda 0