Aldin Ayo happy with Converge character in victory over Meralco
Aldin Ayo may still be far from satisfied with Converge’s campaign in the early goings of the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) Commissioner’s Cup, but he was glad to see his team display what it can be moving forward.
“We’re still not there, but we showed our character to bounce back,” Ayo said after the FiberXers took a 106-99 win over the Meralco Bolts on Saturday at Smart Araneta Coliseum despite blowing a 22-point lead.
The win also served a fitting present for Ayo, who despite preferring to focus on work than to celebrate his natal day was flattered to receive two birthday cakes from the team as he entered the locker room.
But it would be all business afterwards for the neophyte PBA coach as he hopes to improve Converge’s 2-2 record after four starts in the midseason conference.
San Miguel Beer is next for Ayo and Converge on Oct. 21 in another big test for the predominantly young squad.
In order to squeak out a victory over the talent-laden Beermen, the FiberXers will have to clean up some of the things Ayo didn’t like during their two previous setbacks at the hands of the unbeaten Magnolia Hotshots and the formidable guest team Bay Area Dragons.
Converge lost a big lead in its loss to Magnolia, then fell short in its comeback bid from 22 down against Bay Area.
“Those were games that we believe we could have won had we executed our game plan perfectly,” said Ayo. “We were up against Magnolia and we were just not able to execute our defensive game plan, especially on the ball screens.
“Against Bay Area, we just wanted to make it close in the last two minutes, but we couldn’t convert those open looks,” added Ayo, who also pointed out his team being among the lowly-ranked teams in points allowed.
The FiberXers nearly end up with another disappointing outing. They surged to a 68-46 lead late in the second quarter behind their fast-paced offense, only to go cold after the break when Bolts import Johnny O’Bryant led a spirited comeback.
Saddled with four fouls in the first half, O’Bryant went hot with 22 of his 27 in the final 24 minutes as Meralco grabbed the lead in the fourth. Team captain Maverick Ahanmisi and import Quincy Miller, however, had other ideas.
Ahanmisi buried four triples in the fourth on his way to 21 points while Miller’s three-point play with 1:38 left in the contest gave the lead back to the FiberXers at 98-97, eventually sustaining hold of the driver seat until the end.
Meralco also allowed Ahanmisi’s last three of the game with 39 seconds left that extended the gap to five at 102-97 and ended up in a rare 1-3 start in an import-laced conference.
In the other game, TNT welcomed back Jayson Castro—who was sidelined by an ankle injury—in a big way and produced a 110-91 win over Rain or Shine.
The Tropang Giga notched their second win in three games as they took advantage of an Elasto Painters squad that played without Steve Taylor Jr. due to health and safety protocols.
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