KIA Sorento off to the races with big win over Blackwater

Playing coach Manny Pacquiao celebrates an impending win for KIA (Czeasar Dancel/NPPA Images)

After a colorful opening ceremony to open the 40th season of the PBA, KIA Sorento announced their entry to the league with a devastating 80-66 win over fellow expansion team Blackwater Elite in front of over 52,000 fans at the Philippine Arena in Bocaue, Bulacan.

KIA had tempered expectations heading into the season, as they do not have marquee talent in their squad. In their first game, they faced a fellow newcomer but one that had a lot of experience in handling a basketball team. They also lost to Blackwater in the pre-season which lowered their expectations further.

In the first two quarters, KIA looked completely like an expansion team but the Sorento seemed like seasoned pros to start the third quarter.

With LA Revilla exploding for 14 points in the third period, KIA turned a 34-25 halftime deficit into a 63-51 lead heading into the final quarter. Sorento scored a whopping 38 points in the third as Reil Cervantes added nine more to Revilla’s tally.

The Elite did not know what hit them as they failed to get into any kind of rhythm in the second half. KIA established its biggest led of 18 pointsat 75-57 late in the fourth quarter.

Revilla led KIA with 23 points as he hit 10 of his 15 field goal attempts. Former top draft pick and Rookie of the Year awardee Rich Alvarez only scored four points as KIA’s captain but he did the dirty work for his squad as he grabbed four rebounds while adding three steals and three blocks.

Manny Pacquiao started the game but he failed to score while turning the ball over twice in 6:46 minutes on the floor.

Former Blue Eagles Juami Tiongson and Poy Erram led the fight for Blackwater with 10 points each but they did not get a lot from their veterans.

Sunday Salvacion only scored six points while Larry Rodriguez chipped in only two.

The Main Man: Revilla marked his return to the PBA with 23 points and six rebounds in only 21 minutes of action. After being cut by GlobalPort, Revilla fell out of the PBA but with one big performance, he proved that he is here to stay.

Honorable Mention: Two other big men who have not gotten their shots in the PBA played well for KIA. Cervantes and Hans Thiele combined for 26 points and 15 rebounds.

Game Turning Point: After grabbing a 56-51 lead halfway into the third quarter, the Sorento unleashed a 10-0 blast that broke the game wide open. Blackwater never recovered.

They Said It:

KIA head coach Manny Pacquiao: Masyadong gigil kami sa umpisa nung laban. Sabi ko sa kanila huwag silang kabahan kahit marami yung nanonood. Nag-umpisa sa depensa namin tapos sumunod yung opensa kaya kami nanalo.

KIA Team Governor Ginia Domingo: We really had low expectations coming into the season because we are a new team so this is a huge surprise for us. In the first two quarters, it was really hard to watch. I was thinking ‘Nagpapractice ba talaga tayo?’ But the look in their eyes changed in the third quarter. We’re really happy with the result but we know we still have a lot to work on.

The scores:

KIA 80: Revilla 23, Thiele 13, Cervantes 13, Lingganay 11, Saldua 7, Alvarez 4, Sanga 3, Webb 2, Padilla 2, Buensuceso 1, Ighalo 1, Alonzo 0, Pacquiao 0, Raymundo 0.

Blackwater 66: Tiongson 10, Erram 10, Faundo 6, nuyles 6, Menor 6, Cawaling 6, Artadi 6, Salvacion 6, Ballesteros 4, Rodriguez 2, Laure 2, Austria 2, Timberlake 0, Gamalinda 0.

Quarters: 12-21, 25-34, 63-51, 80-66.