And the undercard bout goes to BlackWater
by rick olivares pic by nuki sabio
The match felt championship game. Or a boxing match. Or both.
You know… BlackWater and KIA… two expansion clubs trying to get ahead of the other.
BlackWater felt like a little revenge was coming because in their hearts they knew they shouldn’t have lost that Philippine Cup opener in front of the record-breaking crowd at the Philippine Arena to KIA.
When the Elite looked up the standings and saw KIA on a two-match win streak that put the Carnival at 3-4 to their 1-6, they knew they had to catch up. The Carnival took down three of the usual league powers like San Miguel, Purefoods, and Talk ‘N Text. They’re the talk of the town (both good and bad) as Manny Pacquiao scored his first point in the PBA, an import was asked to leave for derogatory comments towards the boxing champ and the league, and now KIA planned on sending off their playing-coach with a win before he left for the United States to train for his upcoming fight with Floyd Mayweather Jr.
BlackWater tried its best to downplay the importance of the game all the way but I never bought into it.
You do not want to be left behind while the other new club was climbing up the charts.
KIA was positively giddy inside their locker room before tip off. Import PJ Ramos was holding court with his jokes and quick-witted barbs at Eliud Ploigrates’ expense. Some players were overly excited as they howled out loud, “Let’s get a third straight win!” There was some concern that Pacquiao was late and after awhile, it was decided to go ahead with the pre-game reminders without him (he arrived just prior to tip-off). But the Carnival was in high spirits.
Clearly, life was good after their huge wins. Whether they looked past BlackWater or not, I cannot be sure.
Leave it up to BlackWater to flip the script.
The game was physical but tame compared to the Philippine Cup Finals between Alaska and San Miguel yet somehow I thought that this was like an undercard for a main boxing match with all the shots and rough and tumble play.
And the Elite certainly looked energetic and motivated for the game as they went right at KIA that certainly paid for its slow start.
BlackWater fed Marcus Douthit the ball close to the free throw line for jumpers or drives to his left. He sent Kyle Pascual and Rich Alvarez to the bench with foul trouble. With KIA finally electing to double-team him they had a modicum of success but not before a Douthit spin in the lane saw his elbow smash into Reil Cervantes’ jaw.
KIA’s bench jumped up in protest over what they perceived was an offensive foul. And when BlackWater’s bruising forward Gilbert Bulawan also got in a few licks, Ramos and Cervantes retaliated with a few of their own.
After Cervantes’ hard foul for which he was called for an offensive foul, he pointed to Douthit and said, “Now we’re even!”
Douthit shook his head then ran up to rejoin the offense. “Let’s go,” he bellowed.
Saturday Night Fight Night was in full swing.
After BlackWater raced to an 18-point lead, KIA called for time and sent the ball PJ Ramos’ way. The Puerto Rican seven-footer was practically unstoppable as he scored on a variety of moves down the post even against triple teams.
While Ramos scored 49 points, he didn’t get much help with only Leo Avenido the other player in double figures with 10. Others contributed like Hyram Bagatsing and Cervantes. Hans Thiele played well in his five-plus minutes but didn’t return. LA Revilla provided some nifty lobs to Ramos but his scoring was scattered and he had a difficult time against the stronger and heftier Elite guard Brian Heruela who topscored for his team with 27 points. Sunday Salvacion added 22 points with four triples.
In local hoops, we have a term “pamatay sunog” and BlackWater had two – Douthit who seemed to always hit timely long shots to quell KIA’s repeated rallies and old man river, Eddie Laure.
Laure blocked a Reil Cervantes lay-up one-on-one and hit three of four attempts from the field in a solid performance. And his points were all crucial. He also pulled down four boards.
KIA only had Ramos. But even he couldn’t do it all. The Carnival whittled the lead down to five but couldn’t get the crucial stops to get over the hump. They missed a lot of free throws and couldn’t get more production out of other players. In contrast, Laure and Salvacion came off the bench for BlackWater and provided plenty of scoring and defensive sock.
The giddiness that was prevalent some three hours earlier dissipated in a terrible 115-104 loss. The KIA locker room usually has a lot of media types entering but after the loss, the team management asked non-team members to leave for a post-match discussion.
As Manny Pacquiao made his way towards the locker room, someone asked what he thought of the game. He opened his mouth as if to say something then decided not to.
He knew they had missed a magnificent opportunity to climb up the standings and to hunt for a spot in the next round.