February 09, 2018

Mike Digregorio, JP Erram keep Blackwater in playoff race

IT DOES seem that a giant is not enough to faze Blackwater.

The Elite stymied June Mar Fajardo and the rest of the San Miguel Beermen, 106-96, Friday to snap out of an alarming slide and fan their hopes of making the PBA Philippine Cup playoffs at the Cuneta Astrodome.

It marked the third time in eight games Blackwater won over a team with at least one dominant big man, first surprising Rain or Shine before stunning Barangay Ginebra.

"Natatapat lang," said Elite coach Leo Isaac, before expounding a bit more on his team's overall strategy that worked wonders and spelled the end to their four-game skid.

"We were able to contain their scorers and we held our own offensively against their defense," offered Isaac.

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"It's just a good wake-up call from four straight losses. Finally, we were able to get over the hump and hopefully we can start going back to our winning ways."

Making the win more impressive is the fact it was fashioned minus Mac Belo, who was nursing a strained calf muscle. Other Elite readily stepped up.

Mike Digregorio led Blackwater's offensive assault with a personal season-high 26 points while John Paul Erram finished with 24 points to go along with a game-high 18 rebounds and three blocked shots.

Allein Maliksi notched 11 points and eight boards and James Sena chipped in 10 markers while helping put a body on Fajardo to earn, along with surprise starter Dave Marcelo, special mention from Isaac.

"Sena and Marcelo sacrificed their bodies defending Fajardo," noted Isaac.

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Blackwater actually moved just a notch higher and is now lodged at 10th, but Isaac hopes the confidence gained would prop his team in its remaining elimination round assignments.

"With three more games I think we have a good chance of making it," he said. "This win could motivate us more."

The loss was the second against six wins by SMB, dropping it into a three-way tie for the lead with Magnolia and Alaska.

Arwind Santos had 22 points and nine rebounds for the Beermen, who also drew 20 points, nine rebounds and seven assists from Chris Ross. Marcio Lassiter added 13 points and Fajardo 12 points and as many rebounds.

All of SMB's efforts simply could not match Blackwater's in the second half, especially after the latter took the lead for good in the third quarter and sustained its charge even more in the fourth.

Even seldom-used Renz Palma was there to score four points and help along the Elite's 10-1 surge from an 82-80 count.

It was all downhill for the Beermen from there as Blackwater even stretched its lead to 106-92, off Digregorio's fifth triple of the night, only 57 ticks left. (NC)