MANILA, AUGUST 23, 2006 (STAR) By Joaquin Henson - Like a runaway express train, the San Miguel Beer-Philippine basketball team rolled to its third straight win, beating the Darwin Airport Resort All-Stars of Australia, 99-84, in the sixth Shell Rimula Brunei Cup at the National Indoor Stadium in Bandar Seri Begawan, the capital city of Brunei Darussalam, last Monday.

It didn’t matter that Darwin showed up with 14-year National Basketball Association (NBA) veteran Sedale Threatt leading the squad. The Philippines broke out to an 8-0 lead, withstood a scorching Darwin rally that cut a 12-point gap to four, 41-37, at the half and rode on RenRen Ritualo’s hot hand to remain unbeaten in the six-team tournament.

Threatt, a 6-2 sharpshooter who played for five NBA teams, was designated by Darwin coach Don Sheppard to shadow Ritualo but couldn’t stop the Talk ‘N’ Text gunner. Ritualo knocked down three treys in the third period to lift the Philippines to a 69-57 lead that broke the Aussies’ back.

Coach Chot Reyes missed the Philippines’ first two games to attend the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) draft in Taguig last Sunday and came in time for the Darwin game. Assistant coach Aboy Castro piloted the team to a 79-72 win over the Saudi Arabia All-Stars last Saturday and a 101-93 decision over the South Korea Knights the next day.

"I came in and allowed coach Aboy to do most of the coaching as they’ve been doing a great job in my absence but the one thing that was important for me was that we continue to get better as the tournament progresses," said Reyes.

"Secondly, we want to continue improving our teamwork as we have three guys (Mark Telan, Olsen Racela, Wesley Gonzales) who joined us without any practice as late-second replacements for Mick (Pennisi), Mike (Cortez) and Willie (Miller). We were worried about our energy level as we played our third straight game while Darwin was fresh from a day-off but I think our bench depth took care of that.

"What impressed me most was the selflessness of our team. The players are genuinely looking for each other, moving the ball well and sharing the ball. We have a saying on this team – it doesn’t matter how many minutes you play, what matters is how many minutes you contribute. These guys are taking this to heart."

Reyes said ball movement and defense are keys to winning the tournament. "We were constantly changing our defensive tactics to keep Darwin off balance," he pointed out.

Racela started the game with Denok Miranda nursing a slight groin strain and orchestrated the Philippines’ jackrabbit start. In the final period, Ranidel de Ocampo and Asi Taulava attacked the basket from up close as Darwin extended its defense to stop Ritualo, Danny Seigle and Dondon Hontiveros in the perimeter. The Philippines’ inside-outside offense threw off the Aussies who just keeled over from the onslaught. Telan’s buzzer-beating triple closed out the scoring.

In the other game last Monday, Ginebra San Miguel stormed back from a 15-point deficit and ignited a 28-7 bomb in the fourth period to trounce the Jordan national team, 82-70. It was the Kings’ first game in the tournament and coach Joseph Uichico’s debut on the Ginebra bench.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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