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PBA D-League: Elite rally past Gems; Poor start worries coach

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Raymond Aguilar vs Gio Ciriacruz. Nuki Sabio/PBA

MANILA, Philippines—Blackwater Sports had been accustomed to slow starts, falling behind by huge deficits before mustering enough strength to come back and win.

And that trend is what concerns head coach Leo Isaac as the PBA D-League Foundation Cup progresses.

“We have this Holy Week to solve this problem kasi may darating na game na baka hindi na kami makahabol,” Isaac feared, after the Elite rallied anew to nip Cebuana Lhuillier, 87-80, Tuesday at the San Juan Arena.

Blackwater, which overcame a 19-point deficit to defeat Cagayan Valley in its second game this conference, again found itself down big–this time, down 18–in the second quarter.

“Ilang games na yan na pagka-start ng game magulo kami, kulang kami sa energy,” added Isaac. “Parang kinakailangan lumaki muna ang lamang at sumigaw ka muna, hindi maganda.”

“Good thing, third and fourth quarter our zone defense worked against Cebuana.”

Aside from Blackwater’s defensive adjustment, the Elite also had Allan Mangahas running the show.

Mangahas continued to star in place of then starting point guard Jeric Fortuna, who is now with the San Miguel Beermen in the Asean Basketball League as he scattered 21 points, seven rebounds, four assists, three steals and a block.

With the Gems, who dealt perennial champion NLEX its second straight setback in as many games last Thursday, threatened to regain the lead when it pulled to within three, 80-83, on a triple by Paul Zamar, who sank the trey with a bigger defender in Robby Celiz draped all over him, with 37.7 seconds remaining.

Cebuana Lhuillier though, had successive mental lapses that allowed Blackwater, which absorbed a 91-95 double overtime setback to unbeaten Fruitas the last time out, to seal its third win in four games.

Buensuceso sent Mangahas to the line as he went for the steal with 15.9 ticks left. Mangahas, who had nine points in the fourth quarter including a three-point play that made it, 81-77, went one-of-two but Pari Llagas was there to grab the offensive rebound for the Elite.

Llagas also split his charities but again the Gems failed to capitalize with center Gian Chiu fouling Kevin Ferrer as they battled for the rebound with 12 ticks remaining.

“Good game for the support players, James (Mangahas), Bacon (Austria), Paolo Pe, role players coming off the bench. They were able to give us quality minutes and quality points also lalo na yung James Mangahas.”

James, the older brother of Allan, gave his team a lift with eight points, two rebounds and two assists in 15 minutes of play.

Zamar led Cebuana Lhuillier (2-2) with 19 points while James Martinez added 16.

With a light two-game schedule ahead (Informatics and Jumbo Plastic), Isaac hopes his team would be able to address Blackwater’s lethargic start.


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