Alex Mallari powered Mahindra to a 97-93 overtime win over Blackwater, ending the five-game losing skid of Floodbuster on Sunday in the Philippine Basketball Association Season 42 Philippine Cup at the Philippine Arena in Bocaue, Bulacan.
Mallari matched his career-high 23 points on 10-of-20 shooting in the field along with 11 rebounds and three steals, while Ryan Arana tallied 19 points, Nico Salva added 14 points and LA Revilla contributed nine points to hand the Floodbuster their first win that earned them also a 1-5 win-loss record.
“I wish we could play here every week,” said Mahindra assistant coach Chris Gavina.
Mahindra is 2-0 in the Philippine Arena so far in two games played.
“It was hard, building team chemistry, learning our system, our defensive schematics especially with our young guys. Guys have been buying energy for each other. We’ve been doing a lot of drills and we need to learn how to work as a team to succeed. Today was a lot of we ball and we were able to make those plays defensively,” added Gavina.
Both teams engaged to a highly-contested first period closing the opening quarter to 18-all deadlock. But Mahindra unleashed a 7-2 spurt capped by Mallari’s triple to provide his team with a 28-23 advantage in the early part of second period.
They even stretched the cushion to 33-26 in the second canto with still four minutes to go after Mike Digregorio’s triple. Mallari’s second triple kept the Floodbuster’s six-point gap, 41-35, but Blackwater countered with a 6-0 spurt in the last one-minute mark to forge a 41-all tie at the half.
The flamboyant left-handed guard Mallari ended the half with 10 points to lead Mahindra, while the former San Beda Red Lions Dela Cruz already had 12 points in the first half. The Elite and the Floodbuster established their 10th deadlock at 54-all with still 4:27 to go in the third frame.
Mahindra’s forward Mark Yee was slapped with a flagrant foul penalty one after dropping an elbow on Dela Cruz’s left shoulder with 6:13 to go in the third period. The absence of Yee in most parts of the third period took toll on Mahindra’s defensive allowing Blackwater to score in most plays.
Yee scored eight points and grabbed 14 rebounds plus a block also for the Floodbuster.
Point guard Nards Pinto and Ronday Buenafe combined forces in the four-minute mark, unleashing a 9-3 run highlighted by Buenafe’s four-point play and Pinto’s three-pointer and a lay-up that provided Blackwater a 66-57 lead before the end of third period.
Mahindra narrowed the gap to 59-66 at the start of fourth period after Salva’s basket.
Despite Blackwater’s 25-18 run in the third period, Mahindra kept the game in striking distance in the payoff period with Mallari and Salva scoring huge baskets to trim the 12-point deficit (69-81). Mallari sparked the Floodbuster’s 12-0 run including his game-tying lay-up, 81-all, with 1:41 left.
Rookie Mac Belo scored on two free throws to put the Elite on top, 83-81, but Salva tied the count with a jumper with 47 ticks left in the game. Salva’s buzzer-beating offensive put back was way too far on the goal sending the game into overtime.
Mallari took charge in the dying minutes of overtime to help Mahindra stop Blackwater’s two-game winning streak.
Sophomore Arthur Dela Cruz led the Elite with 18 points, six rebounds and three assists. Blackwater though fell to 4-3 win-loss record.