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KIA pulls down Barako Bull from top spot

MANILA, Philippines – KIA Carnival played hard-nosed suffocating defense to yank the Barako Bull Energy from their comfortable spot atop the standings with a 71-68 victory in the 2015 PBA Governors’ Cup on Wednesday, June 10 at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

It was a low-scoring affair fueled by gritty plays as KIA’s Asian import Jet Chang had a game-high 15 points and grabbed 6 rebounds. LA Revilla’s 10 points was the only other double figure-output for the Carnival, which improved its record to 3-3. 

“I told them it’s a defensive game,” said assistant coach Chito Victolero, who took charge sans playing coach Manny Pacquiao.

“It’s a very hard game coming from a two-game losing streak. I challenged my players to give their best effort, to work hard on defense, to bring back the pride of being number one on defense.”

The Carnival stayed home on the Energy, limiting them to a conference-low total scoring output. Barako Bull, with its roster spliced with gunners, averaged 108.4 points a game before tonight.

KIA won this game despite import Hamady N’Diaye posting just 8 points on 2 for 9 shooting and collaring down 14 rebounds.

“It’s hard work. Our last 3 days of preparation was like hell,” Victolero said. “Because of our defense we won this game.”

Sophomore Carlo Lastimosa and veteran Chico Lanete headed Barako Bull’s offense with a mere 13 points apiece. RR Garcia had just 11 points off the bench. 

Import Liam McMorrow, whom Victolero said was the prime focus of their defensive strategy, finished with a conference-worst 12 points on 5-of-12 field goals.

McMorrow, who also had 16 rebounds, previously averaged close to 30 points before this game. 

The other target of KIA’s defensive clamps was streaky shooter Joseph Yeo. 

“Joseph Yeo was really number one on our game plan,” Victolero said. “We wanted him to pass the ball than take a shot.”

Yeo came off a 19-point, 10-assist performance against Globalport but went scoreless tonight. He bricked all 5 of his three-point attempts and never went to the free throw line. 

Despite constantly missing even easy open looks, Barako head coach Koy Banal still went to his trusted starting shooting guard for the potential go-ahead three-pointer late in the game. 

The Energy, which lost control of the game and gave up the lead on a Hyram Bagatsing bucket with 2:41 left, was staring at a 68-70 deficit with under a minute to play. 

Yeo, who also turned the ball over two plays earlier, pulled up for a three-pointer that was not even close despite Banal saying they did not need a long one during the timeout.

Virgil Buensuceso then split from the line in the next possession, leaving Barako Bull with a chance to force overtime in the last 8.2 seconds. 

But JC Intal, who had just 4 points, and Garcia both missed triples as time expired. 

With the loss, Barako Bull crashed to third place with a 6-2 record behind the streaking San Miguel Beer and Alaska.

Scores:

KIA 71 - Chang 15, Revilla 10, Thiele 9, Bagtsing 9, N'Diaye 8, Deutchman 8, Alvarez 5, Webb 4, Buensuceso 3, Dehesa 0, Nuyles 0, Pascual 0.

BARAKO 68 - Lastimosa 13, Lanete 13, McMorrow 12, Garcia 11, Maierhofer 9, Intal 4, Wilson 4, Pascual 2, Yeo 0, Hubalde 0, Chua 0, Ababou 0.

Quarter scores: 18-23, 35-34, 54-54, 71-68.

– Rappler.com