Blackwater fought for survival and survived Mahindra’s last minute stand to score a crucial 108-99 victory and get the last quarterfinal ticket in the Philippine Basketball Association Season 41 Philippine Cup on Sunday at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City.
Veteran point guard Mike Cortez simply outplayed counterpart LA Revilla, finishing with a career-high 30 points on 11-of-18 shooting in the field and grabbing 10 rebounds to guide the Elite to first franchise playoff appearance in two years.
“Thank you for your support to Blackwater, this is our first playoff appearance and this will be a new experience for us,” said Blackwater mentor Leo Isaac during the post game interview.
“We are excited about this and I am happy for management as we go into our two years from a ragtag team competing with high caliber teams. It was just a win against a fellow expansion team. For the whole team going into the playoffs, it is really big,” he added.
Forward Reil Cervantes, who shot 9-of-14 shooting in the field, tallied 14 of his 24 points in the fourth quarter, while Riego Gamalinda added 16 points and Carlo Lastimosa dazzled with 14 points plus six assists and six rebounds.
Rookie Arthur Dela Cruz contributed eight points and 11 rebounds also for Blackwater.
The Elite, through an explosive first half performance, transformed a 26-23 first quarter lead to 51-42 at halftime. They kept their aggressiveness in second half outscoring the Enforcers in the third period 29-19 to provide them an 80-61 cushion entering the last period.
But the Enforcers refused to just bow down against the Elite in the fourth period. Mahindra, through Revilla, Michael Digrigorio and Aldrech Ramos, unleashed a blistering fourth quarter rally to narrow the gap to as low as five points late in the game.
The Enforcers, however, failed to make the crucial shots as the Elite made their free throws in the dying seconds enough to give them enough breathing space to seal the win.
Ramos led Mahindra with 22 points and 10 rebounds while Revilla had 15 points.
Blackwater ended the elimination round at 3-8 win-loss record while Mahindra’s record dropped to 2-9.