Blackwater escapes Mahindra to book first-ever playoffs spot
MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – It took Blackwater Elite 428 days to punch the franchise's first-ever playoffs ticket in the PBA, over a year since they played their first game on October 19, 2014.
The Elite withstood a comeback from the Mahindra Enforcers, 108-99, in the 2016 PBA Philippine Cup on Sunday, December 20 at the Mall of Asia Arena.
"We're excited about this, I'm happy for management that as we go into our second year we're getting results from a ragtag team last year, an expansion team," said head coach Leo Isaac, whose team went winless in their first all-Filipino conference last year.
"We're developing into a team that would be competing against top-caliber PBA teams. Hopefully we can continue with our program."
Veteran Mike Cortez, 35, showed he still has plenty left in the tank as he registered a career-high 30 points and pulled down 10 rebounds to lead the Elite, especially down the stretch.
Cortez, the former De La Salle University star who was picked first overall in the 2003 draft, also entered the 500 career 3-pointers club with a pair of treys Sunday. Cortez is only the 34th player to do so and only the 16th active player with such achievement, according to PBA Head Statistician Fidel Mangonon III.
Reil Cervantes, playing against his former team, lit up in the fourth period with 14 of his 24 points. Bambam Gamalinda added 16 points while Carlo Lastimosa finished with 14 markers, 6 boards, 6 assists and a steal.
The former PBA D-League champions, who finished the eliminations with a 3-8 record, will enter the quarterfinals as the 10th seed and will face the twice-to-beat Rain or Shine, which is raring to bounce back from a tough upset loss to NLEX that put them out of contention for the top two spots.
Top two teams Alaska and San Miguel Beer are the first and second seed, respectively, and have already gained an outright semifinals berth.
Aldrech Ramos led Mahindra with his double-double of 22 points and 10 rebounds while Mike Digregorio had 20 markers and 5 boards.
LA Revilla, who tried to tow the Enforcers in the endgame, finished with 15 points and 4 rebounds. Niño Canaleta and Karl Dehesa had 12 points apiece.
Mahindra bowed out of the Philippine Cup with a 2-9 slate, missing what could have also been the second year franchise's first playoffs appearance.
Mahindra gave Blackwater a scare late in the game, rallying from 20 points down early in the payoff period and inching to within 102-97 on a Revilla 3-point play with 1:08 remaining.
Revilla tried to save his team from elimination by countering Cortez's pull-up jumper with 50.5 ticks left with his own basket.
Mahindra then caught a break on a Blackwater 5-second violation on the inbound play but Revilla's deep 3-pointer went in and out and Cortez made two free throws to seal the deal.
Coach Leo Isaac after Blackwater books first-ever playoffs spotPosted by Jane Yvette Bracher on Sunday, 20 December 2015
Blackwater (108): Cortez 30, Cervantes 24, Gamalinda 16, Lastimosa 14, Dela Cruz 8, Erram 8, Ballesteros 4, Canada 2, Reyes 2, Golla 0.
Mahindra (99): Ramos 22, Digregorio 20, Revilla 15, Canaleta 12, Dehesa 12, Yee 7, Guinto 6, Pinto 2, Webb 2, Pascual 1, Bagatsing 0, Hubalde 0, Laure 0, Paredes 0.
Quarter scores: 23-26, 51-42, 80-61, 108-99.