Mahindra 96 – Blackwater 87
It’s that time of the PBA conference again when the two expansion teams slug it out against each other. And as has been the case most of the time, the Mahindra Floodbuster and Blackwater Elite once again had nothing much to play for in their Sunday affair, other than trying to add one more win to their total.
In the latest duel between the perennial cellar-dwellers, the Floodbuster emerged victorious. It was the first game for Mahindra minus Alex Mallari, whom they let go last week for Eric Camson and Glenn Khobuntin.
Head coach Chris Gavina didn’t hold back about his thoughts on the high-usage and inefficient wing man, even saying that Mallari was sometimes a “detriment” to the Floodbuster. Gavina had a point, as Mallari took 12.5 shots per contest to average merely the same points (12.0), while shooting a woeful 19 percent from beyond the arc and committing 2.7 turnovers a game.
Mahindra parting ways with Mallari opened up the opportunity for other players to get a good share of the basketball, and it showed on Sunday night.
Six players scored eight or more points for the Floodbusters, with Reden Celda’s 18 points on 7-of-11 shooting leading the way. Import Keith Wright chipped in a double-double of 16 points and 16 boards to go along with three blocked shots. But the biggest story was the new acquisition Khobuntin, who came off the bench for 15 markers on a 7-of-11 clip.
Khobuntin, Celda, and the rest of the Floodbuster outscored the Elite, 28-17 in the final quarter to pull away from a game that had been close from the get-go.
In contrast, Greg Smith carried most of the fight for Blackwater, notching 29 points, 25 rebounds, and five dimes. He shot 50 percent from the floor, but the rest of his teammates made only 37 percent of their attempts.
KG Canaleta and Kyle Pascual were the only other players in double-digit scoring for the Elite with 11 markers each. There was mot much else to expect from the Elite, who were without their two best players Art Dela Cruz and Mac Belo. The team ran out of gas in the end, while their opponents remained up for the challenge.
Mahindra ended a five-game losing skid with the win. Both sides went to 2-7 in the team standings after Sunday’s result.
The Mallari era lasted just less than two conferences for Gavina and the Floodbuster, but in return, Gavina got his wish of adding more stretch forwards to his line-up. This conference may once again end prematurely for the Floodbuster, but they have something build on in the offseason with a handful of new young talents that better suit Gavina’s system.