TAGGED with a favored billing for the first time in the PBA Philippine Cup, Barako Bull was hardput getting any lift against Shopinas.com Friday.
It took an early ugly incident before the Energy got fired up and promptly dealt the Clickers a 96-78 shellacking for a third straight win and a share of second-running spot at the Cuneta Astrodome.
Sunday Salvacion’s 14 points and Willie Miller’s 13 and game-high eight assists led Barako Bull, but it was Wynne Arboleda scoring all of his 12 markers in the second period that spurred the team to blow the game wide open.
What really got his players going, head coach Junel Baculi pointed out, was the altercation that happened at the 9:57 mark of the second period with the Energy leading by just 21-18. Then Shopinas center Homer Se started to charge at Baculi.
“I was talking to the referees, telling them na nananakit ng players si Se,” related Baculi. “I was telling them to look at Se. Bigla siyang nag-react.”
Since the ball was in play in front of the Barako bench, the Energy were quick to shield their coach, foremost of which was Dorian Pena. The muscular slotman gave Se a hard shove that floored the latter hard before other cooler heads managed to separate Se.
When the game officials finally sorted things out Pena was ejected, Baculi was assessed a technical foul and Se was also thrown out for two technicals.
Before that incident, the Clickers managed to hold the Energy through five deadlocks and four lead changes. They were easy fodder the rest of the way, trailing by as much as 43-74 before dropping their fourth straight game.
Ren-Ren Ritualo fired 10 of his 15 points in the fourth period to help whittle the deficit to just 69-85, still over five minutes left.
That proved to be the closest the Clickers got, however, as Miller, Paul Artadi, Salvacion and even rookie Paul Sorongon sank the baskets during a 9-2 surge that made it a 94-71 difference and put the outcome beyond doubt. Don Allado chipped in 11 points and six rebounds, the latter including two off the offensive glass that moved him within another of becoming the 39th member of the league's 1,000-offensive rebounds club.
Barako drew alongside idle Rain or Shine at the spot just behind unbeaten leader Petron Blaze’s 3-0 slate, but Baculi said his charges have just capped their most immediate objective.
“Wala pang one-fourth ng games sa 14-game eliminations, so it’s still a long way to go. We’re just working on our modest goal, which was to win as many games as possible in our first four games,” he said.
The cost to the victory was also high as Allein Maliksi strained a muscle, Dylan Ababou suffered a cut above his left eye and Leo Najorda fell hard – face first -- on the floor on a block try against James Sena late in the fourth period.
“We got through our first three games without injuries, but now that we have a light assignment the injuries piled up,” Baculi noted. “But that’s basketball,” he added. “We just have to play over it, rest our injuries and get back strong in Davao (on Saturday against B-MEG).”
Besides, his players had their chances to relax Friday, based on how they started and nearly finished.
“Ganyan talaga, when you have a blowout, may tendency to relax,” was how Baculi put it.
Good thing Arboleda’s explosion, with help from Miller, Salvacion and Najorda, enabled the Energy to pad their lead to 50-33 at the half and by 74-48 going into the last 12 minutes of play. (NC)
BARAKO BULL 96 - Salvacion 14, Miller 13, Najorda 12, Arboleda 12, Allado 11, Maliksi 9, Artadi 7, Avenido 6, Pennisi 4, Ababou 3, Sorongon 2, Salvador 2, Pena 1.
SHOPINAS.COM 78 - Ritualo 15, Hubalde 14, Jazul 10, Menor 10, Espiritu 9, Mirza 8, Canta 4, Duncil 4, Sena 3, Canlas 1, Ilad 0, Hermida 0, Se 0.
Quarterscores: 16-18, 50-33, 74-48, 96-78