It seems like old habits really die hard.
On what seemed to be as an easy win under a new system, the ghost of the past once again came back and haunted Petron as they bowed down to Meralco, 89-83 as they absorbed their first loss in the Governor’s Cup last night.
After trailing 0-8 at the start of the game, the Blaze Boosters were able to shake the rust off their game and grabbed a 14-point lead at one point in the first half thru some red hot shooting and tight defense which forced the Bolts to commit multiple errors that led to fast break chances for Petron. But despite having a comfortable lead, the Petron of old times came to play, and as they say, the rest is history. Meralco, despite missing the services of top locals Mac Mac Cardona and Jared Dillinger, kept knocking on the Blaze Boosters’ door and managed to turn things around in the fourth quarter and never looked back.
Import Elijah Millsap spearheaded the Gee Abanilla-mentored squad in a losing effort with a double-double output in his PBA debut as he logged 24 points and 12 boards. Arwind Santos and June Mar Fajardo also had double-double performances in their conference opener. Santos logged in 16 points and 11 rebounds while Fajardo added 12 points and 14 rebounds.
The Blaze Boosters had a perfect start to the game with Elijah Millsap getting his game going early on, showing why he is one of the highly touted reinforcements this conference. But, the NBA D-League veteran lost steam in the second half and struggled mightily against the defense of Mario West and John Wilson.
Petron was able to show some signs of improvement in the game but it was obvious that they are still adjusting in the new system of Gee Abanilla. Newly acquired front liner Doug Kramer had a decent first game for his new squad despite getting into early foul trouble.
What went wrong for Petron? What caused them to lose their first game i
n the Governors’ Cup? Let us check out the keys to winning for the Blaze Boosters and see if they were able to do them, or not.
1. Get Elijah’s Groove Going Early
In the first half, Elijah Millsap was able to find his rhythm and easily barged into double figures in scoring with his cat-quick moves to the basket and perimeter jumpers. But it was a complete opposite in the second half as he tried to force the issue too much. He was checked well on defense by West and Wilson, yet his isolation plays caused the team a lot as the ball movement stopped, making it tough for other key players to get their touches especially Marcio Lassiter.
2. Attack the Paint
Despite great showings from Arwind Santos, June Mar Fajardo and Doug Kramer, Petron failed to capitalize on this one. Meralco’s big men are, at least on paper, inferior to them but Reynel Hugnatan was able to hold his own against them.
3. Clamp Down on Mario and Mac Mac
Meralco is a dangerous squad with Mario West and Mac Cardona. Petron was lucky that Cardona wasn’t able to play with a calf injury but, it was West who exploded and wreaked havoc against the Blaze Boosters despite coming to the country just a day before this game. The returning import had 23 points and 11 boards, while also getting ample support from players like Salvacion and Hugnatan
Petron was able to show progress and improvements in this game but it was obvious that they are still in some sort of adjustment period. Will things change once they get acquainted to the new system? Or will their misery continue?