MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – With Filipino boxing hero Manny Pacquiao clocking 3 minutes of playing time in his pro-basketball return, his Mahindra Enforcer fittingly came back from 16 points down and stunned the Alaska Aces, 101-95, in the 2016 PBA Governors’ Cup on Wednesday, August 3, at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
The Enforcer maintained their clean slate atop the standings with a 4-0 record, having now defeated champion and finals teams in the likes of Alaska, San Miguel Beer, and the Star Hotshots, as well as semifinalist Globalport.
“Our guys were just purely resilient tonight. They just persevered through the initial wave of Alaska’s high-powered offense,” said coach Chris Gavina, whose team bucked the absence of starting guard LA Revilla, who broke his nose in practice and is expected to be back in two weeks.
“We came out timid, we played at their pace, which is a kind of frantic high-paced game and they make you play at their pace.”
Import James White led the way, scoring 14 of his 32 points in a huge 36-point fourth quarter for Mahindra. White, who also had 15 rebounds and missed only two of his 15 field goals, sparked his team’s mean 13-2 finishing kick with a jumper with 2:39 remaining.
He appropriately ended that run, and the game, with a thunderous breakaway dunk for the exclamation point.
“Our guys settled down in the second half. I just told our guys in the locker room, it’s not about Xs and Os anymore. It’s going to come down to who’s willing to play and our guys responded so tremendously,” Gavina said.
“I just give credit, so much credit to these guys, to their pride, passion, and pure will of wanting to win.”
Aldrech Ramos added 14 points and 5 rebounds, while Niño Canaleta added 13 markers and 4 boards.
Rookie swingman Keith Agovida was dubbed by Gavina as his “magic hugot” for the game after he finished with 11 points, all in the second half, and was involved in critical plays down the stretch.
It was Agovida’s steal that led to White’s jumper to start the game-sealing run, then he assisted on White’s ensuing 3-point play. Agovida then scored to tie the game before Michael Digregorio shoved the Enforcer ahead for good, 97-95, with 1:18 remaining.
Agovida completed a breakaway layup the following play for the 4-point cushion with 43 seconds to go.
“He came in, our next man up mentality really kicked in the second half because we lost such a big part in LA (Revilla) and everyone else just stepped in,” Gavina said of Agovida.
“Keith has just been getting better and better. In practice, teammates keep motivating him to really attack and I think, he’s just getting into his comfort zone.“
Mahindra was down only two points late in the first when Pacquiao checked in but the lead then ballooned to 16 early in the second quarter.
Mahindra rallied in the second half, and then finished the game on an inspired run marked by key plays in which they made Alaska pay for costly errors.
The Aces dropped to a 1-3 record, losing their second straight game. – Rappler.com