Converge hits the gas pedal early, leaves powerhouse TNT winded after rout
Converge coach Aldin Ayo has now steered his squad to three straight victories—each against coaches with rich championship pedigree.
But on Friday, the young mentor credited the team’s latest triumph in the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) Commissioner’s Cup to the way his players have grown accustomed to the brand of play he wants to run.
“The players are slowly absorbing what we are doing,” Ayo said after the FiberXers once again quickened the pace that resulted in a stunning 130-117 result against the TNT Tropang Giga at Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Future Converge opponents may now have to study that style and pace closely, especially after the FiberXers breached the century mark with a lot of time to spare in the third quarter and flirted with tying the league mark for most threes in a single game.
Converge finished with 21 triples Friday night, three shy of the record, with import Quincy Miller draining on the way to 38 points.
‘Keep up the pace’
Jeron Teng (conference-high 22 points), Aljun Melecio (20 points), Justine Arana (14 points), Mike DiGregorio (13 points) and RK Ilagan (eight assists) also performed well during the contest that saw Converge lead by a high of 35.
“Everybody knows that we’re gonna have to keep up the pace and that’s what the players are starting to get better at,” Ayo said.
The FiberXers have now reached the halfway point of the elimination round on a 4-2 (win-loss) slate. One of those two losses came against guest team Bay Area, which Converge pushed to the limit before yielding, 106-100.
After that loss to the Dragons, Converge has strung up three straight wins against teams handled by coaches who have a combined 29 championships. In his first conference in the PBA, Ayo has beaten in succession Meralco’s Norman Black, San Miguel Beer’s Leo Austria and TNT’s Chot Reyes.
“He’s one of the coaches that I look up to,” Ayo said of Reyes, also the Gilas Pilipinas coach. “He’s probably one of the reasons why I love coaching. He’s an inspiration.”
TNT’s defense couldn’t corral Converge’s speedy offense and the Tropang Giga were left with plenty to ponder as they dropped to 3-3 at the midway mark of the tournament.
“Obviously, we got our ass kicked,” rued Reyes, who allowed Converge to score 43 in the first quarter, 73 at the half and 113 by the end of the third which were all new marks for the rookie franchise.
“Our offense wasn’t bad. We scored 117 points, we had only 10 turnovers [and] shot 50 percent total. It’s not bad at all,” Reyes pointed out. “But our defense really left a lot to be desired.”
TNT, with import Cameron Oliver scoring 41 and Mikey Williams adding 27, did reduce the big margin down to nine, only when victory was virtually in the bag for Converge.
That was probably the major point Ayo and the FiberXers are still trying to figure out.
“I know that we get tired on offense because we keep on running,” he said. “That’s one thing we have to address because if we cannot keep up with our defense, we will have problems on our offense.”