Dragons snare unsuspecting Beermen in ABL

- Olmin Leyba -

KUALA LUMPUR – Nic Belasco, showing up against a PBA team he played some years ago, flashed vintage form and knocked the big baskets down the stretch as the Westports Malaysia Dragons stunned the favored San Miguel Beermen, 83-77, in overtime in the AirAsia ASEAN Basketball League at the MABA gym here yesterday.

Playing as a Filipino import for the home team, Belasco scored all of his six points in the stretch to complement the combined 54-point output of American reinforcements Tiras Wade and Brian Williams and the clutch plays of Fil-Am Chris Pacana in spoiling the Beermen’s debut in the home-and-away regional loop.

“We had an edge in that I hid this team from the rest during the (pre-season) Bangkok tournament and we’re going to pull off some surprises,” said the Dragons’ Filipino coach Ariel Vanguardia, who used the tournament ruled by the Beermen to pick apart the SMC franchise’s plays.

SMB coach Bobby Parks admitted getting outplayed by the Dragons.

“All of them (Dragons’ veterans) delivered at the right time. Our guys delivered but didn’t deliver at time we needed to. They were the better team today but we’ll bounce back and work on the things we need to work on,” said Parks.

The Beermen stormed to a 10-point lead early in the third before Wade (28 points and six rebounds) and Williams (26 points and 23 boards) and Pacana (seven points) joined forces in a 12-0 salvo that brought them back into the thick of things. 

“You got to give it to boys. They just persevered; we were down but they kept on playing and we had the victory,” said Vanguardia.

Belasco, a Beerman from 1999-2006, hit his stride at endgame, scoring on a putback off Wade’s miss that made it 71-73 before Wade canned his charities to force a standoff. Pacana’s jumper from the corner touched off Malaysia’s charge in extension, which saw Belasco scoring two baskets inside as the Dragons secured the victory.

“When Nic was missing all his shots earlier, it’s like ‘come on Nic,’ but I coached against him in the PBA and (knew) he will deliver the goods come crunch time. And he delivered, his three baskets in the end were very important for us, he gave us a lift,” said Vanguardia.

Parks drew 17 points from Darlon Johnson and 11 markers from Richard Jeter.

“We had a chance to win. I knew coming in that it was going to be different from the pre-season tournament and I warned them that pre-season didn’t mean anything. But I think we’re going to learn from this loss. We didn’t do a good job on their two imports – one got 28 points and six rebounds, the other got 26 and 23 rebounds. We have to do a better job of containing imports,” said Parks.

Note: PBA legends Allan Caidic and Samboy Lim, vital figures in the Beermen’s championship run in the 1990s in the PBA, came over to support the new SMB in the ABL...An estimated 100 Pinoy OFWs cheered the Beermen, according to Ambassador Ed Malaya, who vowed to organize the Phl community here to regularly support Phl teams in the league.

The scores

Malaysia Dragons 83 – Wade 28, Williams 26, Pacana 7, Belasco 6, Kuppusamy 5, Loh 4, Cabahug 4 Batumalai 3.

SMBeermen 77 – Johnson 17, Jeter 11, Fernandez 8, Fajardo 8, Dela Peña 6, Baguion 6, Avenido 6, Cabatu 6, Rizada 5, Basco 4, Luanzon 0.

Quarterscores: 23-25, 35-42, 59-57, 73-73 (Reg), 83-77 (OT)

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