The game started out in usual SMB fashion. They dominated the first half, leading the Aces 38-30. JuneMar made his presence felt early torching the Aces’ defense with great seals on the block, deft passing and rebounding. He still isn’t a defensive anchor (he probably won’t be) but his size was enough of a deterrent for the Aces to struggle scoring although out the game.
The second half, however saw a much closer game. Alaska closed the gap in the first half of the 3rd quarter, even re-claiming the lead at one point when Casio made a 3-point bomb from the top of the arc. The seesaw game continues through the end of the third and in the late stages in the fourth.
The fourth quarter was a clinic on how to NOT make post passes for SMB as they continuously overthrew or mistimed passes on great seals by the Kraken.
That's the 1000000th awful entry pass on a great seal by Fajardo
— Nico Baguio (@nicobaguio) November 5, 2014
Part of that was Sonny Thoss and Eman fighting valiantly for fronting position against the much stronger Fajardo. That forced entry passes to be lobbed high or quick, side passes that none of them knew how to do with any consistency. When Fajardo did get the ball in the post, the double team and the rotation that followed were good enough for SMB not to get a good shot out of that possession. In the end, the Beermen were forced to dribble out possessions, fearing more live ball turnovers would give Alaska easy chance points in a very bloody game. Fajardo for his part, kept his team in the game with timely offensive rebounds and putbacks (he had 9 offensive rebounds in the game).
The last three minutes showed SMB flexing their collective muscle. They took a six point lead late in the game (55-61) that got the arena rocking (at least on TV). But once again, their inability to close out teams reared its ugly head. Alaska would claw their way back into the game behind Sonny Thoss finally making a basket and drawing a foul (after countless turnovers or near turnovers) and #Insan delivering a 3-point swish on the left shoulder to even the score at 62 a piece. Lutz would then miss one of his two freebies at the line to give the Beermen a precarious one point lead. That would set the stage for what would be a classic Casio moment.
The Aces ran a flare screen for Casio on the left wing – an action that Coach Leo saw a mile away. The clock was ticking, Casio couldn’t get anything out of the flare screens and all the ball screens that followed so he passed the ball to Abueva 25 feet from the hoop. He’d set a brush screen to allow Abueva to get momentum driving into the basket before fading to the 3-point line. Again, Abueva’s drive was well read — stymied and left in no man’s land without a live dribble. He passed the ball to Casio, who faded to the 3-point line with a semi-wide open look. With the shot clock winding down, No one would fault Casio if he took that shot despite his defender closing hard on him. That was panic time and all you want at that point is to get a shot off, any shot really. But not Casio. He was calm and collected even through that nerve-racking moment. He calmly faked (and his defender flying out of range), took two or three dribbles inside the paint and took the shot as he always did — feet square, shoulders relaxed, elbows aligned and follow through. It would be an utter shock if that ball didn’t go in. But it did and that gave Alaska all the momentum it needed. They’d make a great defensive stop on a wild Lutz drive (kudos to the referee for calling that out-of-bounds right in the heat of the moment). Casio would drill two free throws to give Alaska some breathing room. Another defensive stop later (Sol Mercado took a hail mary three from the right shoulder) and it seemed like Alaska would win. Abueva, smirk and all, needed to hit just one of out two free throws. Of course he missed both. Good thing their defense held tight as Lassiter took a fading, leaning 3-point shot that was challenged hard. It clanged off the rim.
Game. Set. Match. 4-0 beybe!
- Alaska’s defense was bad and good. Good because they forced the Beermen to take 25 percent of their shots from the 18-25 range, where they converted just 10 percent (2-19) of their shots. Bad thing is that they allowed Fajardo to grab nine offensive rebounds. The Beermen scored 9 points on those offensive rebounds. That’s partly because of the rotations — a smaller man (not Sonny Thoss or Abueva) were forced to box Fajardo out. That has to be fixed. The Beermen won’t shoot 3 of 26 from deep every time.
- I’m however, happy to report that the Aces — buoyed by the Triangle offense — are taking a healthy number of their shots inside the paint. And they’re converting a good number of it. Now, if only they could start hitting those 3-point shots.
- Put this in the “awful” Abueva games. He did have 18 rebounds. But he also committed 7 turnovers, missed 10 of 12 shots from the field and missed five of his six freebies.
- If you aren’t a fan of Vic Manuel yet at this point, I’m judging you.
Game #5 will pit Alaska against newcomers Kia
Kamaos Sorentos. Win #5 is NOT out of the question.
Featured Image: Paul Ryan Tan, Interaksyon