MANILA – Though Barako Bull lost 96-103 against Purefoods on Tuesday [READ: Purefoods fends off slumping Barako Bull; rises to top of the standings], the team led its opponents in the early moments of their encounter because of two factors in the team’s defensive scheme:
Instead of putting import Solomon Alabi on Star Hotshots reinforcement Denzel Bowles, the Energy let bulky forward, Dave Marcelo, defend the Purefoods center during the first quarter.
Although undersized, Marcelo was tough and heavy enough to contain Bowles and push him out of the paint, something similar to what Sonny Thoss did when Alaska eliminated the former reigning Commissioner’s Cup champion, B-Meg Llamados in 2013.
“Syempre si Bowles, we know him as a tough guy and a scorer. Mahirap rin bantayan dahil factor siya sa team. I learn from my mistakes na lang and gamitin yun as experience,” Marcelo said.
That advantage gave Barako the luxury of funneling every Purefoods attack through Alabi, who possesses tremendous height and wingspan. Alabi would often guard Marc Pingris, who isn’t a threat from 15 to 18 feet out.
It helped Barako protect the rim. Alabi would often get the boards with both Bowles – already cleared out by Marcelo – and Pingris out of the paint.
The Energy took the 24-19 lead at the end of the first period, but after the team deviated from that particular defensive scheme, the Star Hotshots suddenly pulled away.
The reason behind that is when Alabi was on Bowles, the latter possessed a “quickness factor” according to Purefoods head coach Tim Cone, and so Bowles often beat Alabi off the dribble, and that left Barako with no other rim protectors.
“He had the quickness factor. It was a good adjustment for him,” Cone said. “He got hot basically and got going from the perimeter. It [Marcelo on Bowles] made it more difficult with Alabi [underneath].”
Purefoods also went small ball when the squad made its burst, forcing Barako head coach Coy Banal to put Alabi on Bowles. Unfortunately, Bowles caught fire, and showed that he is one of the best reinforcements in the league.
“Wala na kaming pwedeng gawin. Good thing they pulled out Denzel, but when he returned, inatake naman si Solo [Alabi],” Banal said.
Bowles eventually torched Alabi, scoring 21 of his 34 points in a decisive third quarter, where Purefoods poured in 34 points. He hit from anywhere on the court, and when the defense tried to stay in front of him, Bowles went strong and finished around the rim.
Bowles finished with 17 rebounds and two blocked shots to catapult Purefoods, which led by as many as 16 in the fourth period, to the top spot in the team standings.
“Our team showed the grit the whole night. The whole game did not start the way we wanted. That’s the kind of stuff that wins playoff games,” Cone added.
Alabi managed to grab 19 boards, most of which came in the first half using the earlier scheme, but the entire Barako crew was outrebounded, 56-39 as putting Alabi on Bowles left the Energy with no other rebounders every time Bowles beat Alabi off the dribble.
Purefoods also moved the ball well to make Barako suffer in the end. The Star Hotshots shot eight-for-22 from the outside. The Energy had no other recourse but to go with a zone defense, however, it was a tad too late with Purefoods already ahead by a sizable margin.