KUALA LUMPUR – Blackwater struggled to get its rhythm and suffered a 92-86 loss to import-laden Malaysia NS Matrix in the opening day of the 2016 Seri Mutiara Champions Cup Wednesday night at the MABA Stadium.
Darius Rice, one of five reinforcements for NS Matrix, fired a game-high 46 points, including two big triples inside the last 90 seconds to scuttle the Elite’s last-minute rally.
Rice, who played for Purefoods during the 2008 Fiesta Conference, finished the game with eight triples, to go along with nine rebounds.
American playmaker Akeem Richmond added 20 points, eight rebounds and five assists, Australian banger Christopher Putton collared 19 boards, while Fil-American Avery Schaffer had 12 rebounds and 10 assists.
Blackwater coach Leo Isaac said the team’s lack of chemistry somehow affected the Elite, who had to bring in guest players Chris Javier and Carl Bryan Cruz from Gilas 5.0 as reinforcements in lieu of injured big man JP Erram and wingman Reil Cervantes.
“May mga instances na puwede ka maka-silip ng winning line, pero may mga players na bago sa sistema sa grupo,” said Isaac after the game.
The Elite are now in a must-win situation at Group B as they face the tall China-Guangzhou Securities on Thursday, before closing their preliminary round assignment against the physical Australia Perth Cockburn on Friday.
“Kelangan talaga manalo kami sa two remaining games namin but sabi ko nga sa kanila, as long as makita natin yung team effort, like everybody helping each other and creating opportunities for one another, whatever the result as long as makita kong lumalaban tayo, okay na ako dun,” he added.
Raymond Aguilar led the Elite with 17 points and five rebounds, Carlo Lastimosa added 14, while Bam Gamalinda and Javier chipped in 12 and 10, respectively.