THE playoffs cast is complete.
The Blackwater Elite booked the last ticket to the quarterfinals by beating the Mahindra Enforcers, 108-99, and earned their first-ever berth in the playoffs as a franchise in the 2015-16 Philippine Basketball Association Philippine Cup yesterday at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City.
Veteran guard Mike Cortez turned in his best game of the conference at the best possible time, spearheading the Elite with a season-high 30 points on 11-of-18 shooting, to go with 10 rebounds.
The Elite ended their campaign at 3-8, good enough to enter the quarterfinals and earn the No. 10 seed. The Enforcers finished at 2-9 for 11th place and will now join Meralco in an early vacation.
Blackwater coach Leo Isaac couldn’t hide his joy as his Elite will now have its first taste of playoff basketball.
‘’Excited kami na makarating sa quarterfinals. Kami naman we just want to keep on improving at ito na. May development na kami and nakarating na sa playoffs after one bad season,’’ said Isaac.
Reil Cervantes had a solid game for the Elite, scoring 24 points and grabbing three rebounds for his squad.
Blackwater though will face a daunting task in the quarterfinals. It is set to take on powerhouse Rain or Shine, who will have a twice-to-win advantage.
Following a so-so start in the opening quarter, Blackwater found its groove in the second period when the team took control of the game.
The Elite opened the second with a booming 21-4 storm in the first seven minutes to post a commanding 44-30 cushion with five minutes remaining before halftime.
At the turn, Blackwater remained in command, but its lead was trimmed by Mahindra to just nine, 51-42. The Elite outscored the Enforcers, 28-16, in the second period.
Blackwater continued to pound Mahindra in the third quarter to stretch its lead further to 19 points, 80-61, entering the final 12 minutes of action.
The Elite established their largest lead, 88-68, in the payoff period with nine minutes remaining.
However, Mahindra did not go down without a fight. The Enforcers mounted a last-ditch effort to save their campaign this conference.
The Enforcers clawed their way back into the game during the waning minutes, inching to within five points, 99-104, after LA Revilla’s basket.
Unfortunately for Mahindra, its run fell short as Revilla’s triple attempt in the team’s next possession rimmed out and Blackwater secured the victory with free throws down the stretch.
The playoffs cast is complete with the Alaska Aces and the San Miguel Beermen gaining outright seats in the semifinals after topping the eliminations. Rain or Shine, GlobalPort, Barangay Ginebra, Talk ‘N Text, Barako Bull, NLEX, Star and Blackwater are the teams headed to the quarters. The only thing being settled as of this report is the final seeding in the middle of the pack.
The Elasto Painters, the Batang Pier, the Gin Kings and the Tropang Texters are all assured of a twice-to-beat incentive against their lower-ranked opponents in the next round. The result of the Ginebra-Talk ‘N Text match will determine the final placing of the teams as well as their quarterfinal playoff opponents.