The Barako Bull Energy improved to a 3-0 slate and a share of the top spot in the current conference with a victory over the Kia Carnival, 95-86, at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
The Energy started the ball game with successive defensive stops and scored on five quick points completed by an and-one play by JC Intal. Scoring became stagnant for the Carnival as their first points came off free throws by import PJ Ramos at the 8:10 mark of the opening period. With Barako Bull’s smothering defense on the huge import, Kia settled for outside jumpers that were not nearly effective enough compared to those in their previous win against San Miguel.
Barako Bull quickly doubled Kia’s output at 14-7 with a gorgeous find by Carlo Lastimosa to Willie Wilson, who completed a three-point play off a one-handed floater. In the last two minutes, the Energy outscored the Carnival by two more baskets to give them an early nine-point lead at the end of one.
With both teams fielding in their bench players in the second period, Kia started on a 5-0 run capped by a Karl Dehasa triple. Sensing a run, Barako Bull responded by putting in their 7’2” reinforcement Sol Alabi. Alabi made his presence felt by grabbing the majority of the boards with Ramos sitting on the bench. He also played solid defense for the Energy.
Intal was the first player for the Energy to enter double-digit scoring as he drained in a triple to give them a 33-22 lead. Four more free throws extended the Energy’s lead to their largest at 15. However, LA Revilla led the charge for a late quarter run by Kia including an impressive side-step layup using the off-hand to chop the lead down to single digits entering the break.
Despite a quiet output in terms of points for Alabi, they outscored Kia 22-14 in the paint and scored more in transition, 7-0, in the first 24 minutes.
Revilla scored on a floater in the midst of a 6-2 run early to help Kia claw back into the ballgame during the third. The Energy countered with transition offense that highlighted a thunderous one-handed slam by Intal to regain momentum. Despite short bursts of baskets from Kia both from the field and from the free throw stripe, the Carnival had a hard time closing the gap with the locals stepping up for Barako Bull.
As things got chippy and physical in the second half, Barako Bull managed to retain their composure and hang on to a comfortable lead throughout the third period. The catching up theme continued for the Carnival as they went almost exclusively to Ramos to anchor their offense in the paint. Ramos scored on multiple baskets to help Kia slice the deficit to 71-74 with a over six minutes left to play in the game.
In the ensuing play, Leo Avenido and Intal exchanged perimeter buckets to make it a close encounter. Barako Bull once again threatened to pull away with baskets coming from Alabi and even making the important freebies. The 15-foot charity shots became the sealing weapon that the Energy used to secure the victory especially in the dying moments of the game.
Barako Bull, who did not have the services of Sol Mercado due to a sprained ankle suffered last game, managed to notch their third straight win. On the other hand, Manny Pacquiao was present for coaching duties but failed to help Kia gain another win after defeating the Philippine Cup champions San Miguel in their previous assignment. The Carnival fell to a 1-3 record.
Alabi played a stellar game with 26 points, 20 rebounds and was two rejections away from a triple double. Intal chipped in 18 markers and four steals. Ramos was the lone bright spot offensively for Kia with 34 huge points while also grabbing 20 rebounds.
*Photo by Nuki Sabio of PBA Images
Barako Bull (95) – Alabi 26, Intal 18, Lanete 10, Hubalde 9, Garcia 8, Lastimosa 6, Marcelo 4, Pascual 4, Chua 2, Salvador 2, Salva 0, Paredes 0, Sorongon 0
Kia (86) – Ramos 34, Buensuceso 14, Revilla 10, Cawaling 8, Avenido 7, Burtscher 6, Pascual 4, Dehesa 3, Poligrates 0, Iglaho 0, Alvarez 0, Yee 0