|San Miguel's Sol Mercado is smothered by Alaska's defense leaving him to try and find an open teammate.|
Thoughts on the Alaska-San Miguel match
by rick olivares pic by nuki sabio
Watching the Alaska Aces squeak past the San Miguel Beermen last night in an erstwhile battle between undefeated teams, I felt the latter played into the former’s hands.
The Aces are suited to a more defensive and smothering game. This is not to disparage them but more because it is the anti-thesis of the supposed sexier offenses like the Triangle that Purefoods and Ginebra run or the dribble drive that is all the rage.
Oh, for Alaska, you’ll see flashes of their old offense here and there after all that has been imbued in their blood. But I like to think theirs is a more opportunistic style predicated on defense.
I believe their rugged game fuels their defense and ultimately their offense. They have players who bring a lot of energy to the game – Cyrus Baguio, Calvin Abueva, Vic Manuel, JVee Casio, and Ping Exciminiano. If Gabby Espinas were healthy then pencil his name in that last sentence as well.
The defense also threw off Chris Lutz who scored heavily in the early goings then was quiet until the fourth period. San Miguel thrives when players like Paolo Hubalde help out but he hardly played. I have to like the energy that David Semerad brought to the game but the energy has to be properly channeled. He turned the ball over a bit and that offensive goaltending took away a three-point play for teammate Arwind Santos. In close battles, every point counts.
San Miguel only had a few players who would carry the load before passing it on to others. I believe that you need to have a couple of players on fire for the ball to move around quick and to keep the defense guessing. When the ball goes one way, it is easier to defend.
When the ball got dumped down a lot to JuneMar Fajardo, the Aces swarmed over him. But Fajardo is no klutz and he can pass that rock. However the way these Aces play? They play with a passion.
When San Miguel – through Santos – shut down that lane for the Beermen, they played better. I don’t think it was sustained though. Arwind played long minutes. Was he tired in the end?
As the game was reaching its climax, I thought: for a match that is defensive in nature, rhythm is difficult to find. So it boils down to breaks, hustle, and desire. With the way the match ended, might as well add free throws and execution to the factors.
It can be pointed out that San Miguel’s Chris Lutz and Santos missed key free throws but so did Calvin Abueva for Alaska. Four of them to be exact. I thought that the hot hand of Santos that allowed them to stay in stride with Alaska so maybe that last shot should have been his. I know that Sol Mercado and Marcio Lassiter are better shooters but the two were in the midst of a wretched shooting game.
Marcio was trying to hit that fadeaway all night long but they were all short as was his last attempt at sending the game into overtime. And over the outstretched arms of Sonny Thoss who played him well? Not an easy shot.
Of course, we’ve seen players who were cold all game long hit a clutch shot. But I will always go with the hot hand. Maybe that should have been Santos.
Alaska came away with a 66-63 victory and the total was Alaska’s lowest in its history. “But it’s a win,” pointed out head coach Alex Compton. “I’ll say though I am more proud of the way we held San Miguel to 63 points. It’s wasn’t sexy I know but it’s a great defensive effort although we left them an open window in the last minute.”