SMB overcomes Al-Hussaini’s big game for 10th win
San Miguel 96 vs. Air21 89
by rick olivares
November 26, 2010
When San Miguel met the Air21 Express last October 8, the match ended in a 100-86 victory for the former. If some went into the game expecting another blowout by the Beermen of another overmatched foe then they had another thought coming.
After three quarters, the Express were down by just a bucket 70-72. Now if they could find another player to complement the scoring explosion of rookie Rabeh Al-Hussaini then an upset could be in the making.
Ato Agustin, San Miguel’s first year head coach, drew out a simple game plan – stop Ronjay Buenafe, Wesley Gonzales, and Ronnie Matias and force Al-Hussaini to beat them by his lonesome.
For nearly a quarter of play, San Miguel did just that as they stopped all four as they posted a 29-19 lead with blood in the water for the championship-starved Beermen.
But the Express then switched defensive schemes and threw a box and one on San Miguel and the comeback began in earnest.
Digging deep into his bench, Air21 head coach put in Leo Najorda and Carlo Sharma who gamely battled Danny Seigle and Dorian Peña. As the two put their team back in the game at 28-29 still for San Miguel, Al-Hussaini scored on a putback for a 30-29 lead. The big man added eight more points and the Express went into the half down by four at 45-49 but feeling good about themselves.
At the start of the third, Al-Hussaini chased out Seigle far beyond the three-point arc then forced him to pass. The second overall draft pick deflected the pass and teammate Josh Urbiztondo picked up the loose ball and found Ronjay Buenafe on transition for a trey, 50-49 Air21.
Although the Beermen were finding points from just about everywhere, Al-Hussaini was keeping his team in the fight and within striking range. He scored on fadeaways, turnarounds, jump hooks, and drives on Danny Ildefonso, Mick Pennisi, and Peña.
With three quarters done, Air21 was down by a bucket 70-72 and Al-Hussaini had 21. With fellow rookie and longtime teammate Nonoy Baclao shutting down the inside lane with monster blocks on Jay Washington and Danny Seigle, the Beermen had to break the zone wideopen with their outside shooting. While SMB had Arwind Santos, Dondon Hontiveros, Joseph Yeo, and Washington who can all knock down shots from way beyond what is legal, they had to rebound some because Air21 grabbed 18 boards with eight coming from the offensive end. They also needed to minimize their turnovers after they committed four of which the Express converted into five points.
The Beermen cranked up the defense to open the fourth quarter while they dropped an 11-0 bomb courtesy of Danny Seigle and Washington to go up 83-70. Without Al-Hussaini on the floor, San Miguel continued to beat Buenafe and Gonzales to their sweet spots that prevented their drives. With Najorda now in lockdown, Air21 had zero offense.
Express’ coach Yeng Guiao sent back in Al-Hussaini whose five minutes rest did not cool his guns. The former Ateneo center went back to work by scoring eight straight points while Wynne Arboleda added a deuce off a layup to bring the deficit down to six at 89-95 with 30 seconds to play. Their defense held but a pair of misplays ended any hope of sending the match into overtime.
San Miguel’s 96-89 victory for a 10-2 record had given them a clear shot at any of the top two spots of the Philippine Cup for a twice-to-beat advantage in the quarterfinals. The loss was Air21’s seventh in 11 matches and left them in the danger zone where Powerade, behind by a game, could still sneak up on them and send them out of playoff contention.
Said Agustin after the match, “The team executed our game plan well. Buti na lang walang katulung si Al-Hussaini nung fourth quarter or di natin masabi kung anong mangyayari.” The former PBA MVP when he was playing for San Miguel also singled out point guard Olsen Racela’s solid playmaking in the fourth period where the Beermen were able to get that huge cushion that they rode out until the end.
“If we win the Philippine Cup, then we want to win this for Olsen (who is retiring after this conference after 17 years in the league).”
San Miguel 96 – Washington 18, Santos 17, Seigle 15, Yeo 12, Hontiveros 8, Peña 8, Pennisi 5, Cabagnot 4, Artadi 4, Ildefonso 4, Racela 1, Miranda 0
Air21 89 – Al-Hussaini 31, Najorda 16, Buenafe 12, Quiñahan 10, Sharma 6, Gonzales 5, Arboleda 5, Baclao 4, Urbiztondo 0, Arellano 0, Matias 0