FOR a team that had just a little over a week to prepare, Blackwater Sports Elite played well enough to turn back Singapore's Siglap team, 76-70, and kick off its campaign in the 2014 Chief Minister’s International Cup in Penang, Malaysia on a winning note.
The Dioceldo Sy-owned franchise rode a burst of three-pointers to open a 31-12 lead then turned to its defense to overcome a comeback by the Singaporeans in this tournament that forms part of the Elite's buildup for their debut season in the PBA in October.
However, the Elite's lack of cohesion and their unfamiliarity with the strict officiating showed in the middle quarters as Singapore’s American coach Michael Farrell turned to a zone defense to hold Blakcwater to just five points in the whole of the second quarter.
Singapore slingers Adam Karl Becis, Wong Fui Kean and Roberto Cabrera then took charge to bring the Lion City team back to within four, 32-36 at the half.
The Singaporeans continued to pounce on the Elite in the third, with Filipino import Rex Leynes scattering 12 points in the quarter alone, as Blackwater's players ran into foul trouble, including PBA veteran Eddie Laure who committed his fifth and last foul at the start of the second half.
“Masyadong manipis ang tawagan. Medyo nasanay kasi tayo sa pisikalan sa atin lalo na sa PBA. Bawi ako bukas,” said Laure, who was apologetic to the coaching staff after the game.
Coach Leo Isaac's move to call for a half- and full-court trap at the start of the payoff period worked wonders for Blackwater which regained control and took an eight-point cushion into the endgame behind PBA veterans Gilbert Bulawan, Bambam Gamalinda and D-League mainstays mainstays Allan Mangahas and Pari Llagas.
Tay Ding Loon tried to put Singapore back in the game with a three-pointer in the final 32 seconds of the game, but Blackwater's defensive lockdown kept the opposition at bay the rest of the way.
Bulawan paced the Elite with 18 points and Gamalinda chipped in 16 markers. Juami Tiongson had 15 points while playing with a sprained ankle that had team officials initially ruling him out of this tournament also participated in by club teams from India, Chinese Taipei, and Australia and a selection from Malaysia.
“A win is a win, we will accept a victory despite losing a big lead in the first quarter,” said Isaac. “But we need to adjust to the kind of officiating and to the brand of play. Our players kasi tend to easily lose focus pagka may tawag na hindi nila gusto, so we need to adjust to that.”
Next for the Ever Bilena franchise is a game against India, which won over Malaysia in the succeeding game.
Here's a video of some highlights of the game: