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PBA: Barako triumphs

BARAKO’s Solomon Alabi (left) gets double-teamed by Ryan Faundo and JP Erram of Blackwater during PBA action last night at the Cuneta Astrodome. Barako won, 92-70.

Games Tomorrow (Cuneta Astrodome)
4:15 p.m. – Meralco vs Kia
7 p.m. – Globalport vs Purefoods

Manila, Philippines – Call it a Solomonic solution for the Barako Bull Energy.

Behind 7-foot Solomon Alabi and recent acquisition Solomon Mercado, the Energy went on a full-court pressing defense in the fourth quarter to break Blackwater’s resistance and roll to a 92-70 victory last night in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup at the Cuneta Astrodome.

Barako Bull joined opening day winners Globalport and Meralco in early celebration while the search for its first franchise victory continues for Blackwater which was without injured import Chris Charles.

The Energy extended the Elite’s losing streak to 12 games, 11 coming in the previous Philippine Cup, as Alabi debuted with 21 points, 22 rebounds and 5 blocked shots, while Mercado, acquired by Barako Bull during the break in a trade with Globalport for Denok Miranda, added 20 points on 7 of 11 shooting from the field.

“Right now we’re not missing the services of Denok because we got a gem as well in Sol Mercado,” said Barako Bull coach Koy Banal, who added in jest, “Ang difference lang, si Sol English ang salita, si Denok Taglish. Mas athletic din si Sol.”

Of his import, Banal said: “I can’t ask for more from Alabi. He delivered; he was a ring protector. And I like his attitude.”

Without its 7-foot reinforcement, Blackwater trailed, 43-35, at halftime and waged a battle with nobody to stand against the towering Alabi.

Charles, a two-time Asian Basketball League Best Import, sprained his left ankle and pulled a hamstring during practice and took ginger steps on the bench although he was in uniform. His left thigh was heavily bandaged and he walked with a slight limp.

Seizing the advantage, Barako pounded the ball inside to their Nigerian import, who played 26 games with the Toronto Raptors.

Barako Bull, as expected, dominated the boards, 56-45, and the inside scoring, 34-18, while the pressing defense forced Blackwater turnovers in succession in the breakaway fourth, triggering the Energy’s fast break game.

Alabi played 20:59 minutes out of the 24:00 in the first half and scored 10 points with 16 rebounds and 3 blocked shots. Sol Mercado, in his first game after being traded by Globalport for Denok Miranda, also had 10 points but committed 3 turnovers, losing the ball mostly on drives.

The Energy led after the first quarter, 23-17. But Blackwater, still searching for its first win in the season after going 0-11 in the Philippine Cup, went on an 11-4 run to grab the upper hand, 28-27, on a hard drive by Alex Nuyles.

Charles’ absence proved too much to overcome, however, as Blackwater eventually folded in the second quarter, allowing Barako Bull to charge back behind Alabi, Mercado and Chico Lanete.

Energy forward JC Intal was slapped a technical for arguing a call while Barako Bull coach Koy Banal spent the first minute of the halftime break questioning officials why no whistle was blown after the Elite hammered Alabi at the buzzer.

BARAKO 92 – Alabi 21, Mercado 20, Lanete 19, Intal 13, Wilson 5, Garcia 4, Pascual 4, Salva 3, Lastimosa 2, Hubalde 1, Pena 0, Marcelo 0, Salvador 0, Paredes 0, Sorongon 0.

BLACKWATER 70 – Faundo 16, Reyes 9, Heruela 9, Gamalinda 8, Ballesteros 7, Nuyles 6, Acuna 5, Erram 4, Laure 4, Bulawan 2, Charles 0, Timberlake 0, Celiz 0, Ciriacruz 0, Austria 0.

Quarters: 23-17, 43-35, 62-58, 92-70

TALK N’ TEXT 89 – Castro 15, De Ocampo 14, Howell 13, Miller 10, Fonacier 9, Seigle 6, Aban 6, Alas 5, Carey 4, Washington 3, Rosser 2, Reyes 2, Labagala 0, Williams 0, Espiritu 0.

RAIN OR SHINE 86 – Jackson 30, Uyloan 11, Lee 10, Almazan 9, Chan 6, Tiu 5, Norwood 4, Belga 4, Quinahan 4, Arana 2, Ibanes 1, Cruz 0.

Quarterscores: 23-20, 48-42, 64-68, 89-86