These were teams looking for a good first impressions as the new kids on the block. And what a hell of an impression they made in their first time on stage.
Final Score: Pacquiao Powervit Pilipinas Aguilas 79 – Mono Vampire 78
The game started off with Aguilas going off on a running start, forcing a lead of as much as 11 points led by AZ Reid who showed off why he was the PBA’s best import in the Governor’s Cup.
After that Aguilas showed signs of their lack of preparation and let Mono back into the game. After Aguilas saw that “JO” Ratdech Kruatiwa let fly an airball three point attempt in the Vampires first possession, they seemed to have played a little bit looser defense on him to instead focus on the 7’1″ behemoth, Anthony McClain. If Aguilas were to have at least some scouting or if they had watched some SEA Games this year, they would have known that you can’t let Kruatiwa open.
Bang! Bang!! Bang!!! Kruatiwa fired in three straight long range shots and brought the game back to within 6 points. Aguilas would show again that they didn’t quite know what to make of the Thai players as they left Pairach Sekteera with an easy open lay up line, which so happens to be his personal specialty. You can’t really blame Aguilas for not having scouted the entire league, but I think you have to have done at least some research before entering an international competition.
The quarter ended up pretty much in deadlock and once Aguilas tried to sprint away in the secord quarter, Anthony McClain got down to work near the rim and brought the game to deadlock again. The first half would end at 36 all.
The Mono Vampires headed into the locker room and Coach Prasert fired them up, citing defense and rebounding would end this deadlock and put them ahead.
And he was true to his words. The Mono Vampires finally broke out of the deadlock early in the third quarter which was started by — surprise, surprise — a defensive block party by Quincy Okolie.
That led to a McClain runaway fastbreak dunk.
Which lead to another McClain basket, followed by McClain blocking a shot, resulting in an Apiromwilaichai fastbreak, before completing off a run that would secure a 12 point lead for the Thai side with Anthony McClain scoring the hoop plus the harm. Even without Ratdech Kruatiwa’s three point shooting (0-7 in the second half), the Vampires were able to make a run.
Emotions were raising high throughout the entire bench and reached out to all of the Thai fans at USEP Gym (ohh wait, that was only me). It was a weird atmosphere that the USEP Gym didn’t grow entirely silent like the fans had resented that the Mono Vampires had gone up ahead against their home team. Some fans were in fact get even more into it. For them, they really when a good run of basketball was being made and when to appreciate it. Good stuff.
Of course, the Mono Vampires couldn’t have realistically expected for that 12 points lead to hold out for the entire game. Nearing towards the end of the 3rd Quarter, the Vampires sent McClain to the bench.
All of the sudden, Aguilas scored 10 points in what seemed like barely longer than a minute and a half. Val Acuna hit a three point shot. Sorot Sunthornsiri drove in for a floater and missed. Val Acuna missed his long range shot the next time, but AZ Reid was their to make the put back shot. Sunthornsiri then forced an awkward shot in the paint which missed and left a wide open backcourt for Eric Salamat. Sunthornsiri then fouled Salamat, sending sending him to the free throw line where he converted two free throws. Suthornsiri tried to push the ball over the halfcourt for one last second heave, but ran into Salamat and turned the ball over with 2.3 second left in the 3rd quarter.
This all in the span of no less than one and a half minute.
Sunthornsiri is a promising young point guard for Thailand (only 21 years old) and he’ll have better days, but this is an ABL debut he will soon be looking forward to forget.
Aguilas set up the play for a shot at the final buzzer with 2.3 seconds, and here’s how it went:
First of all, there were 2.3 seconds left on the clock. Based on first-hand experience of actually playing basketball (at a basic level) it probably takes more than 2.3 seconds to:
- receive the inbounds pass
- start the motion of a turnaround jumper
- decide halfway during the jumper that the guy in front of you will probably block your shot so you bounce pass the ball
- receive the pass midstride
- take a slight hop gather
- fumbles with the ball a bit
- attempt the 3 point shot
However, according to the referees final decision all those actions were considered to have been completed before the expiration buzzer. All in the span of 2.3 seconds.
I later got some advice from an expert about this issue and learned that because the ABL doesn’t have those cool backboard lights that flash when time runs out, referees depend on the sound of the buzzer to dictate whether or not the shot got off in time. It was probably that the ref saw the ball leave Acuna’s hand before he heard the buzzer, which is why he had his hand raised up for the three point shot attempt.
That was actually very helpful and understandable. Refs are human and you can only expect them to do so much. You can only do so much with the hearing-sight coordination of a human being.
So when I watched the game tape, I wasn’t looking to match the clock with Acuna’s release (mostly because the gametape didn’t have the time showing) but I looked the match the buzzer with Acuna’s release.
It turns out that if you go frame by frame, the ball is still in Acuna’s hand by the time the ball is released. So the Mono Vampires have every right to be pissed off for having only a two point lead going in to the 4th quarter instead of five. But it was a very, very, very , very close call and I suspect that the refs had a hard time going back and forth in his head with the decision before drawing the short stick on what needed to be done.
Bad turn of events for the Mono Vampires to end the 3rd quarter.
AND THAT WAS JUST THE THIRD QUARTER.
The fourth quarter was a series of both teams just scoring back and forth. No team led by more than two points up until the waning minutes of the game, so of course the guys on the court were feeling some pressure. Some guys just vented the pressure out unlike the others.
Aguilas seemed to finally breakfree from the Vampires biting at their necks (you know I had to throw at least ONE vampire pun in here) when Val Acuna scored back to back fast break points.
But nope, the Vampires weren’t done.
Darongphan Apiromwilaichai went all the way to the rim on some sloppy Aguilas defense. AZ Reid made it worse by actually fouling him (which again, probably would have not happened if someone had scouted Apiromwilaichai). With about 20 something seconds left on the clock at this point Darongphan had a chance to make it a 3 point game.
And he missed the free throw. And Charles Mammie forgot to box out the 7’1″ beast that is Anthony McClain. And Anthony McClain got the rebound. And Kannut Samerjai was ever the fast thinker to get out of his rebounding position to the closest corner three. And he got the ball from Anythony McClain. And he takes the shot…
Suddenly, instead of being up by 6 with only 20-ish seconds on the clock, Aguilas were up by only one point with about 16 second left on the clock. This does sound eerily familiar to how Mono Vampires ended their 3rd quarter.
All the Mono Vampires had to do was just foul Aguilas and hope lady luck was still on their side.
Aguilas got 4 passes to go around in addition to a couple of dribbles with the Vampires chasing them playing tag waiting for that holding foul call that would never come.
I personally don’t have any explanation that could soften the blow other than home court advantage.
Let’s start with the imports of each team.
AZ Reid impressed as I thought he would. Anthony McClain played way better than I thought he would. Quincy Okolie played pretty much the way I thought he would. Charles Mammie played way than I thought he would.
Now that that’s out of the way…
I came into this game expecting Aguilas to be a dominating offensive machine and I came away very disappointed. They seemed to have lacked practice (from the rumors, Aguilas had just formed their team 2 weeks before gameday and started practicing 2 days before gameday), they lacked chemistry, they lacked familiarity of their homecourt, and they lacked any knowledge of their opposing team. Even though they might have got some homecourt whistles their way, without all that preparation, they still got a win over a solid Mono Vampire team. This is without their two Heritage Imports (Jerramy King, Alli Austria).
I also expected the Mono Vampires to struggle a lot more without a Heritage/ASEAN import to handle the guard duties. While 24 turnovers are are lot, I liked how confident the Mono guards looked advancing the ball forward. It will take them time, but they will get there. They also can’t expect to rely on this high of a scoring load from Anthony McClain in every game, nor with Ratdech Kruatiwa. Other teams have seen them now and they will be working hard to stop what seems to be the most reliable offensive weapons on the team. Even Kruatiwa found it hard to get off a good shot in the second half after Aguilas started draping him. Mono will need another legit scorer to emerge if they want to make the Final Four. Whatever the case, they have the potential players to make this happen and I liked what I saw from this game.
What I liked and didn’t like
- Going to and From
This game was quite a different experience for myself as an ABL follower as I had never experienced ABL in the Philippines. More than that, this game would be played in Davao. This location is notable because the Mono Vampires of Thailand had to fly in since midday of the 26th of October, which was three days before game day.
This was inevitable because Air Asia does not have any direct flights from Bangkok to Davao. Actually, Air Asia doesn’t even have direct flights from Bangkok to Manila. Therefore, the Vampires commute from Bangkok to Davao went approximately like this:
3:00PM Bangkok >> 6:00PM Kuala Lumpur
9:00PM Kuala Lumpur >> 1:00AM Manila
6:00 AM Manila >> 8:00AM Davao
Give or take on flight delays and the transportation to and from airports, and you have a full 18 hours of transportation.
18 Hours! It was good planning for the Vampires to go in so early to get some time to reboot themselves.
It wasn’t as refreshing for me. I took the same flight route but would arrive the morning before the game because of the Hitech-Slingers game the night before.
It was fun to get to meet the Aguilas team at 5:00AM at the Manila Domestic Airport about to board the same flight to Davao, but other than that, there was nothing much to enjoy about being on a plane for roughly 8 hours and in airports for another 9.
The Terminal is a lie. Shame on you, Tom Hanks.
- ABL Scouting
During the flight, I met with a scout from an ABL team. I cannot name this scout or his team because scouts are like spies and if their identities are exposed they need to swallow cyanide and die. Of course, now you know that it’s not a scout from Mono Vampire or Aguilas, so take your guess from the 4 remaining teams.
Jokes aside, it was fun to get to know an actual “scout” and try to understand what they do. I guess scouts are somehow treated like snakes by the teams they are scouting (because they are snakes in a sense) so the job probably gets really lonely sometimes.
I watched as he tore away at the a game tape on the plane, splicing plays the teams ran and how they called it. I questioned why he went through the trouble of travelling to games if you can do this stuff from game tape and he said that when he goes to games he also looks at the things that doesn’t get caught on camera. Coaches calling out plays from the bench. Body Language. That sort of stuff.
Information is bliss to have, if you are willing to invest in it I guess.
- The Curious Case of Charles Mammie
Charles Mammie looked good on the stats sheet. 14 points, 14 rebounds. But he looked way worse in reality. He went up soft the rim and got stuffed a couple of times.
And then their were the instances of complacency like when he failed to box out McClain on that final free throw or when he was too pumped up celebrating a dunk, went for a steal, and completely failed.
Again, it’s only one game and Aguilas can still regroup, but it was not a good eye-test outing for Mammie.
- ANTHONY MCCLAIN (IN ALL CAPS BECAUSE HE IS HUGE)
People can’t stop gushing about McClain and you can’t really blame them. He was dominant.
28 points, 14 rebounds, 4 blocked shots. You can say that Aguilas was a small team, but that is still pretty intimidating. Just see here how intimidated Jondan Salvador was.
Mind you, Salvador has seen plenty of big men in his career in the PBA and he had a wide open opportunity near the basket. All it took was the sight of McClain to change his mind.
I don’t really blame you, Jondan.
- What goes on off the court
Anthony McClain and Charles Mammie had a couple of back and forth instances on the court so when I board the plane out of Davao it seemed pretty awkward for me to sitting exactly one row ahead of Mammie, Reid, McClain and Okolie. Turns out they had a nice fun conversation talking about all of the basketball experiences they have had in the past and joking about some in game stuff like how Okolie scored no points but he got that block on Mammie which Mammie insisted was a goaltend.
As a basketball fan, it’s just fun for me to be able to experience this kind of stuff that goes on off of the basketball court as well.
By the time this article gets published, Pilipinas Aguilas will have already played the KL Dragons in Kuala Lumpur on the 31st of October as their next game.
The Mono Vampires will be facing crosstown rivals, Hitech Bangkok City at Thungkru Stadium on the 4th of November in their next game.
Let’s see what Anthony McClain has to say about that game: