Strongly motivated to end their four-game slide, the Blackwater Elite returned to their giant-slaying ways as they pulled off a major upset against reigning champs San Miguel Beermen, 106-96, Friday at Cuneta Astrodome.
The Elite improved to 3-5, while the Beermen went down to 6-2 and created a three-way logjam with the Alaska Aces and Magnolia Hotshots at the top of the standings.
“We will use this as a motivation in our coming games,” said a relieved Blackwater head coach Leo Isaac. “We had a lot of contributions… We hope the good Lord may continue to bless us.”
Mike DiGregorio topscored Blackwater with 26 markers spiked by five triples with five assists. Poy Erram served as the Elite’s anchor, finishing with 24 points, 18 rebounds, four blocks, three dimes, and two steals.
The Elite approached the second half down narrowly behind, 43-45, but a 14-6 rally to open the third canto — punctuated by DiGregorio’s trey — was all that they needed to give them a 57-51 advantage with 5:05 in the said frame.
Blackwater then kept their foot on the gas pedal to sustain the lead. SMB tried to come back, and Matt Ganuelas-Rosser’s point-blank bucket sliced the deficit to just two, 80-82, with eight minutes in the final frame.
But that proved to be the closest SMB could get, as the Elite — thanks to seldom-used rookie Renz Palma — made a 10-1 spree to widen the gap and post the game’s first two-digit lead, 92-81, with 5:19 left in the match.
From that point on, the Beermen struggled, and DiGregorio scored Blackwater’s last eight points inside the final 1:37 to wrap it up once and for all.
Allein Maliksi had 11 points, six rebounds, and a conference-high eight assists for the Elite. James Sena had 10, while Palma, whom Isaac called their “magic bunot“, had eight markers, two rebounds, and two blocks.
The Beermen were led by Arwind Santos with 22 points and nine rebounds. Chris Ross had 20 points, nine boards, and seven assists, while Marcio Lassiter made 13 markers and seven caroms. June Mar Fajardo had 12 and 12.
Blackwater played in Friday’s game without scoring leader Mac Belo. According to Isaac, the sophomore wingman is having issues with the iliotibial band in his leg, but insisted that nothing is serious.
Blackwater will next face the Kia Picanto next Friday, February 16, 4:30 PM at SMART Araneta Coliseum, while SMB will look to bounce back against the hot Alaska Aces on February 17, Saturday, 5:00 PM in Dumaguete City.
Blackwater 106 — DiGregorio 26, Erram 24, Maliksi 11, Sena 10, Palma 8, Jose 6, Marcelo 6, Cortez 5, Cruz 5, Pinto 5, Neypes 0, Sumang 0.
San Miguel 96 — Santos 22, Ross 20, Lassiter 13, Fajardo 12, Lanete 9, Ganuelas-Rosser 8, Heruela 8, Agovida 2, Semerad 2, De Ocampo 0, Mamaril 0, Pessumal 0.
Quarterscores: 20-27, 43-45, 72-69, 106-96.