Bay Area validates status as heavyweight with 46-point rout of Blackwater
Coach Brian Goorjian sees more room for improvement even after the visiting Bay Area Dragons delivered a strong warning to the rest of the teams in the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA).
“What we want to do is we want to keep getting better, we want to keep improving,” Goorjian said after the Dragons kicked off the Commissioner’s Cup with a 133-87 rout of the Blackwater Bossing at Mall of Asia Arena on Wednesday.
Winning all nine matches in the lead-up to the midseason conference by an average margin of almost 20 points, including three victories over Blackwater, the East Asia Super League side from Hong Kong showcased its strength on a more public stage.
Six-foot-two Myles Powell, who will play the first four games of the eliminations before Andrew Nicholson takes over for the next four due to league rules on imports, paced Bay Area’s dominant performance before a sparse crowd, firing on all cylinders on his way to a game-high 41 points.
Four more players scored in double figures while the imposing 7-foot-5 Liu Chuanxing put up nine points and 13 rebounds to show why many see the potential of the Dragons to become just the second foreign team to win a PBA championship, the last being a group of American players who powered Nicholas Stoodley to the Invitational crown in 1980.
But Goorjian sees bigger challenges ahead, especially after what he saw during the recent Philippine Cup won by June Mar Fajardo and San Miguel Beer, while also hoping to give Filipino fans a different brand of basketball during their PBA foray.
Learn and entertain
“I’ve seen the semifinals and the finals, and I know how great this league is and how great those top teams are,” the Dragons mentor and coach of the Australian national team said. “So we just want to come in and show the country that we’re here to help the basketball, we want to learn, we want to grow and we want to provide something that’s entertaining to your public.”
“And I hope we have a team that gets good enough down the stretch that we can compete with the San Miguels and the [TNTs], those teams down the back stretch, that would be huge for us,” Goorjian added.
While Bay Area was impressive, Blackwater was left to search for solutions after a disappointing start to the conference.
The Bossing were also two days removed from the league’s approval of a three-team trade with the TNT Tropang Giga and NLEX Road Warriors, resulting in their top overall pick Brandon Ganuelas-Rosser being shipped to the latter.
Blackwater got Troy Rosario from TNT under the terms of the swap, but the versatile forward was a mere spectator despite being in uniform.
Import Cameron Krutwig, who Blackwater tapped after his role in Loyola Chicago’s Cinderella NCAA Tournament run a few years ago, had 11 points, 12 rebounds and eight assists—but his outing left plenty to be desired.
Ato Ular, surprise pacesetter in the Rookie of the Year race at the end of the first conference, had 13 points and 14 rebounds for the Bossing.
Batang Pier triumph
In the nightcap, Robert Bolick hit a three-pointer with 12 seconds to go and NorthPort edged past Phoenix, 92-89, in its first game since trading Jamie Malonzo to Barangay Ginebra in a three-team trade that also included San Miguel Beer.
Meanwhile, NLEX named former NCAA champion coach Frankie Lim as Yeng Guiao’s replacement before opening the conference against the latter and Rain or Shine on Friday at the PhilSports Arena in Pasig City.
Management made the announcement after rumors of Lim’s hiring swirled in the weeks since Guiao decided not to accept NLEX’s offer of a corporate role instead of staying on as coach.
Lim is known for steering alma mater San Beda to NCAA championships in 2007, 2008, 2010 and 2011 and handled Ginebra back in the 2015 Governors’ Cup.