By Jonas Terrado
(BritAma Arena, Jakarta)
4 p.m. Satria Muda BritAma vs RP Patriots
(Patriots lead series 2-0)
The Philippine Patriots put on an all-around effort on both ends of the floor to hammer out a masterful 72-53 rout of Satria Muda BritAma to moved within the threshold of winning the first ASEAN Basketball League crown late Wednesday night at The Arena in San Juan.
Behind a much needed defensive intensity and huge support from the local cagers that sorely lacked the last time out, the Filipino cagers almost controlled the whole game that eventually gave them a commanding 2-0 lead in this best-of-five title showdown.
The Patriots, who defeated the Indonesians for the fifth time in as many outings, can wrap up the league’s inaugural title with a win on the road this Sunday at the BritAma Arena in Jakarta.
However, winning the title in front of a hostile Indonesian crowd won’t be an easy task for the Patriots. Just ask coach Louie Alas.
“I want to win because it’s tough to play in front of a hostile crowd,” said Alas, whose team leaves tomorrow. “For sure, the crowd in Jakarta will be ready so we have to develop a mindset of going to a jungle. It will be a very hard game.”
Gabe Freeman made just 9-of-21 shots and didn’t have a fiery offensive charge he did during his 39-point explosion in Game 1. Still, he went on to lead the Patriots with 23 points and 14 rebounds for his sixth straight double-double.
He also agrees with his coach’s sentiments, saying: “You know what, we have to take it one game at a time and I’m not going to say that we’re going to sweep them but we’re going to play hard especially on their home turf.”
But it was the locals, led by reserves Rob Wainwright and Christian Coronel, who played complementary roles for Freeman and fellow American Jason Dixon, who notched his 15th double-double effort in the last 16 games with 11 points and 12 rebounds.
Wainwright, the Patriots’ team captain, made four triples to tie his season-high of 16 points while Coronel finished with five points while providing stellar defense against Indonesia’s main ballhandler Mario Wuysang that netted him two steals.
Starting point guard Warren Ybanez had just three points but dished out six assists while big men Nonoy Baclao and Elmer Espiritu grabbed five rebounds each that impressed Alas.
“Sir Mikee told them that this series is not a game of imports but the locals will be a factor so their (locals) performance was well deserving, we really needed that local support,” he said.
“But defensively, job well done and I hope we would bring that same thing in Indonesia,” Alas added.
Ronnie Gunawan topscored for Satria Muda with 15 points and nine rebounds while American Alex Hartman added 12 points but shot just 4-of-11 from the field. He also grabbed six rebounds in 36 minutes.
But a non-factor for the squad of coach Fictor Roring was 6-foot-10 center Nakiea Miller, who despite making 11 points and 13 rebounds muffed 15-of-21 shots and was shut down inside by the Patriots frontline.
“I played a bad game and we just didn’t have a good offense today but we’ll work on that,” Miller admitted. “It’s not over, we’re going back to Jakarta and we play better at home so we have to take it one game at a time to make this a series.”
Cheered on by a small group of Indonesian supporters, BritAma tried to mount a comeback when they trailed by just six points, 52-46, on one of Hartman’s three triples with 8:23 remaining in the contest.
But it only began a huge Patriots 20-4 run behind Freeman, Dixon and Coronel to pull away with a game-high 22-point advantage, 72-50, with little over two minutes left and the outcome already secured.
In that run, Coronel answered back Hartman’s trey with his own triple, Dixon scored on a baby hook off Miller with Freeman and again Coronel making two jumpers that jump start the run.
“It’s so hard to beat the Patriots if our imports play below par. Our locals played well but the import matchups decided the outcome,” Roring said with a thick English accent.
Wainwright, who had nine points in Game 1 and has been struggling offensively in recent games, drained one trey in the second quarter for a 31-20 lead then made another one with 70 ticks remaining in the said period for a 39-24 advantage.
Then, the former MBA cager for the Cebu Gems and a many-time PBA player for various teams, completed a 41-26 halftime lead for the Patriots with a scoop shot off two Indonesian defenders with three seconds remaining.
RP PATRIOTS 72 – Freeman 23, Wainwright 16, Dixon 11, Coronel 5, Gaco 4, Ybanez 3, Espiritu 3, Sta Maria 3, Baclao 2, Alcaraz 2.
SATRIA MUDA BRITAMA 53 – Gunawan R. 15, Hartman 12, Miller 11, Frihantono 6, Wuysang 5, Sondakh 4, Sitombang 0, Achamd 0, Gunawan G. 0, Wijaya 0.
Quarters: 19-13; 41-26; 52-43; 72-53.