Five minutes before tip-off time, our side of the basketball court was devoid of the usual faces. Only JR Calimbas, Ryan Agas, Merrill Lazo and I were there. As the clock ticked, the prospect of defaulting on our season opener slowly became reality. Paolo Rosales’ last minute arrival finally completed the starting five.
All throughout the precocious pre-game impasse, I was admittedly irked by the absence of the other players. We pride ourselves in winning an ABL championship without non-D2003 reinforcements and yet, there we were struggling to complete a five-man squad. It seemed as if everything went downhill after the magical 2009 season.
We were bombarded by accurate outside snipes from 4H 2003′s Earl Bello. Inside the paint, our heftier opponents controlled the boards and made crucial point-blank conversions. In the first two quarters, the opposing team led by as much as eight points as we struggled to keep pace with a depleted line-up. The daredevil fast breaks of Ryan and Ros kept the team within striking distance. But we couldn’t seem to pare the lead.
With lactic acid dangerously reaching the thresholds of pain, our much awaited reinforcements finally arrived. The sweet-shooting Adi Dimaliwat was the spark plug. Adi’s accurate shots from three-point country enabled the squad wrest the lead for the first time in the game. Dimaliwat was unstoppable, as he unleashed an electric display of shooting prowess, nailing three out of his eight attempted three-pointers. Adi’s field goal percentage was an immaculate 50%.
As the latter quarters unraveled, the fab four of Ryan, Merrill, Adi and Ros wreaked havoc on the open court. The defense held the repeated forays of the opposing team. Gang rebounding proved pivotal for the team in the face of wider and taller opponents. In a noteworthy twist, the smallest man on court, JR, notched a team-high seven rebounds! Despite the dearth in size, D2003 grabbed a game high 27 rebounds against the opposing team’s 26.
Adi and Ryan both registered a game-high of thirteen points, with the latter grabbing five rebounds. Merrill chipped in four assists, while Ros contributed eleven points.
Agas’ hard fall in the last four minutes of the game threatened to derail our path to the “W.” But the front line upped the ante until the visibly shaken former UAAP star dug deep to return to the hard court. When the final buzzer sounded, we were ahead by a barely comfortable five points, 39-34.
It was an auspicious opening to the ABL 2012 season. Despite the absence of several key players, the team still managed to eke out a hard-fought, come-from-behind win – the first time we won an opening game in four ABL seasons. It was a far-cry from the 50-point shellacking we took in the final game of ABL 2011.
AHS 2003 Week 1 Stats (from the ABL site)