Even with two towering San Miguel Beer big men hounding him in the paint, Star energetic import Ricardo Ratliffe still willed his way to a historic night in the rebounding department on Monday night at the Mall of Asia Arena.
Unfortunately, his 35 boards all went down the drain as Star’s fightback fell short against the Beermen, who escaped with a 77-76 win to tie their semifinals showdown at one game apiece.
After all, Beermen head coach Leo Austria was not at all surprised to Ratliffe’s imposing presence in the paint, which made him just the second import to register 30+ boards in the playoffs. Legendary Ginebra import Michael Hackett holds the all-time league high of 45 rebounds in 1985 Third Conference playoffs.
“Ratliffe, given na ‘yan, makaka-score because alam mo na masipag eh, lahat ng rebound pwede niyang kunin and then putback,” said Austria in his post-game presser. “Most of his points came on that kind of situation eh.”
But with the 6-foot-8 import proving to be a headache for San Miguel, even with counterpart Charles Rhodes and three-time MVP June Mar Fajardo harrassing him, Austria had no choice but just to limit Ratliffe’s local support.
“Sabi ko sa kanila, as long as hindi umi-score ang mga locals nila, it’s okay. So 30+ rebounds and we won by one point, that’s okay for us,” he said.
True enough, only Jio Jalalon and Ian Sangalang scored in double digits for the Hotshots as gunners Allein Maliksi and Paul Lee combined for just 8 points in a game that saw their 8-game winning streak bridging the eliminations and the playoffs snapped.
With the Game 2 win, San Miguel also handed Ratliffe his first loss since coming in as a late replacement in the mid-season conference.
“But next time we should limit his rebounding as well as his scoring. It’s not only his scoring, but the scoring of the local,” continued Austria. “We were able to limit Allein Maliksi, because last time he made 26 points, and that is big for us, considering na we’re trying to hold him down dahil alam namin na with his stint in Gilas, ang confidence niya ay napakataas.”
Star chief tactician Chito Victolero commended his import’s valiant effort but stressed his wards’ overall mindset to counter San Miguel’s juggernaut.
“I don’t know kung ano pa yung adjustment ng San Miguel pero si Ricardo naman is doing his job regularly, kahit sino pa ang kalaban,” said Victolero. “Importante lang siguro yun nga, medyo may mali kami sa first half, kailangan lang namin maitama yung mindset.”
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