Philippine Patriots - 11-4
Singapore Slingers- 10-5
Satria Muda BritAma - 8-7
Kuala Lumpur Dragons - 7-8
Brunei Barracudas - 6-9
Thailand Tigers - 3-12
THE Philippine Patriots asserted its leader position in the region Sunday night by scoring a blowout victory against the Brunei Barracudas, 87-65, at the Ynares Sports Center in Pasig City.
Cheered by home crowd fans, the RP team dictated the game's tempo from the start including the impressive 20-point output of import Gabe Freeman, nine of which are posted beyond the arc.
Freeman was followed by fellow American Jason Dixon and Warren Ybanez with 12 and 11 points, respectively.
The Patriots won the jumpball against the Barracudas and started a scorching rally to take an early lead but the visitors quickly equalized the game and overtook the Patriots at the end of the first quarter, 18-17.
Second and third quarters saw the Barracudas struggling to get past the strong defense of the Patriots, committing foul troubles and turnovers.
The final canto saw the Patriots nailing the last coffin on the lowly Barracudas as the team led as many as 23 points courtesy of Jaypee Alacaraz's jumpshot with only 2:36 left.
The Philippines outlasted the visiting Brunei squad in all departments: 35 percent outside shooting, 42 percent from the paint, 74 percent free-throw output, 60 rebounds, 18 assists, eight steals and five blocks.
But the Patriots had more turnovers than the Barracudas, 17 to 15 as well as fouls, 16 to 13.
‘Couldn't be happier’
Coach Louie Alas said he couldn't be happier with the win as the team now holds the number one seed going into the Final Four of the six-nation league.
“Siguro mas better ang defense namin this time, especially sa second half,” Alas said whose team clinched its eighth straight win at home.
He praised his team for a job well-done at the wrap of their grueling elimination campaign. “Yung leadership ni Gabe (Freeman) andun eh, before the game nagsalita sya tapos si JD o Jason Dixon."
The 25-year-old former San Miguel Beermen hotshot was a key player in the Patriots' comeback win against Thailand Tigers last January 17 after exploding 21 points, 14 rebounds, two steals, and one block for 30 minutes of play.
“He has practiced for five days with the team, so we expect him to deliver more,” said team manager Mikee Romero.
As to the Filipino players whom he called in earlier to step up, Alas has nothing but praises as well especially to collegiate defensive specialists, Nonoy Baclao and Elmer Espiritu.
“Very ano eh, intangible yung mga ginawa nila kanina like si Nonoy Baclao na nakita nyong hanep sa depensa at sa rebound though di nya nakukuha ang rebound,pero natatatap nya sa mga kasama nya,” he said.
"Si Elmer (Espiritu) naman kung magprovide ng help ganun din, very intangible yung mga tinulong nila,pero defensively grabe ang tinulong nila, kaya tuwang-tuwa ang mga dalawang imports,” he added.
Don Camaso led the losing cause of the Barracudas with 19 points, seven rebounds and a block while Regie Larry and Leo Avenido contributed 17 and 15 points apiece.
But its latest recruit, the 27-year-old Australian center Simon Conn failed to deliver the crucial outside shooting and defensive stance needed by the Barracudas as the former US NCAA player was held only to measly 10 points.
The Patriots and the Barracudas are tied in their head-to-head match up.
On their first meeting last December 13, 2009 the incomplete Patriots were snapped by Barracudas with a masterful 95-70 victory in Bandar Seri Begawan. The game was supposed to be held last October 31 but was postponed due to Typhoon Santi.
The team however quickly recovered as they avenged one of their worst loss in the ABL by thumping hapless Barracudas, 70-56, last December 21.
Sunday's loss meant an exit for the Barracudas who ended their first season campaign with a 6-9 slate.
Facing KL Dragons
At the close of the three-month eliminations, the Patriots improved their win-loss record to 11-4, half game ahead of Singapore Slingers (10-5).
The Patriots will face the revitalized Kuala Lumpur Dragons (7-8) next Sunday (January 31) still at the Ynares for their best-of-three semifinals showdown.
The coveted court advantage is part of the team's reward for getting the top seed in the playoffs.
“At this point in time tingin ko ang Kuala Lumpur ang best defensive team dito sa ligang ito kaya we have to break that defense by Kuala Lumpur,” Alas said of the squad who defeated them last January 9 at Maba Stadium, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
On that game, the Patriots found themselves on a chasing hunt against the Dragons over the first three quarters and lost fire on the final canto as the Dragons routed the Patriots, 77-58.
Philippine Patriots, 87 - Gabe Freeman 20, Jason Dixon 12, Warren Ybanez 11, Jerwin Gaco 9, Rob Wainwright 8, Erwin Sta. Maria 6, Val Acuna 5, Jaypee Alcaraz 4, Nonoy Baclao 4, Khazim Mirza 3, Froilan Baguion 3, Elmer Espiritu 0.
Brunei Barracudas, 65 - Don Camaso 19, Regie Larry 17, Le Avenido 15, Simon Conn 10, Francis Adriano 4, E. Tan 0, C. Lim 0, H. Ho 0. (Virgil Lopez/Sunnex)