PBA: Blackwter coach hopes team maintains course

Henry Walker of the Blackwater Elite goes up for a shot. (PBA Images)

Blackwater coach Bong Ramos is hoping to see his team develop a winning habit after emerging as the unlikely leader of the PBA Governors’ Cup following Friday’s upset of Barangay Ginebra San Miguel at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

The Elite displayed grit and poise under pressure to hack out a 124-118 overtime victory over Ginebra at the Smart Araneta Coliseum that gave them a 4-0 record and the best start since the franchise jumped to the pro ranks in 2014.

It also raised hopes of Blackwater making the quarterfinals for only the third time in team history.

“Sana masanaynangmasanaymanalo. Maging habit ba?” said Ramos, who has reaped the rewards of the transformation following Blackwater’s dismal 1-10 record in the Commissioner’s Cup.

Ramos and the Elite spent weeks following the end of the midseason tournament competing in a pocket tournament which they won in Surabaya, Indonesia following by a near-semifinal appearance in the Super 8 competition in Macau.

The team is also benefiting from the improved play of center PoyErram, whose confidence has risen after representing the national team in the Jakarta Asian Games and the FIBA World Cup Qualifiers.

Erram is averaging 14.5 points, 9.0 rebounds, 1.3 steals and 1.3 blocks in three games this conference.

John Pinto, Mike DiGregorio, and Paul Zamar have also stepped up for the Elite, knocking down big shots in their two victories this week.

Pinto buried a crucial three in the final seconds to seal Blackwater’s 113-111 comeback over NorthPort on Wednesday, DiGregorio forced overtime against Ginebra with a corner three and Zamar hit two triples in the extension to seal the win.

Blackwater also found an unlikely hero in seldom-used center Chris Javier, who also hit two crucial baskets against NorthPort while Erram was dealing with foul trouble even as Mac Belo shook off early struggles this conference to produce solid performances in the two games this week.

“My guys are confident,” said import Henry Walker. “Everyday, I let them know that we’re only as good as our weakest man. And if our weakest man comes out, play and ready to step up then we’ll be a pretty strong team. And that’s what you’ve seen, having a belief that we can win some ballgames.”

Zamar, however, cautioned that the early success could give the Elite a false sense of security.

“There’s always room for improvement,” Zamar said. “We’re just playing every quarter and not get ahead of ourselves. Hopefully, in the end, we’ll be there (quarterfinals).”

Walker, credited as the most influential figure on the team, is thinking of bigger goals.

“I told you guys that I was coming for that trophy,” Walker told reporters before walking away.

(Manila Bulletin)