By Jerome Lagunzad
Once he walked past his Blackwater teammate Poy Erram who’s being interviewed outside the team’s locker room at the Mall of Asia Arena, sophomore forward Mac Belo shouted at the top of his lungs: “Ang pogi mo Poy!”
The 6-foot-8 Erram has all the reason to look – and feel – good on Friday night after he helped the Elite pulled the rug from under the favored Barangay Ginebra Gin Kings, 94-77, that further underscored their readiness to go deep this time in the PBA Philippine Cup.
Up against the Gin Kings’ prized “Twin Towers” of Greg Slaughter and Japeth Aguilar, Erram, 28, held his own down low as he finished with 22 points and 11 rebounds on top of four blocks while outplaying his more heralded fellow Ateneans down the stretch.
His all-around performance, arguably one of his best since he returned from an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury in the Governors Cup last season, should be considered as a coming out party for Erram who’s been flying under the radar since being selected by TNT in the second round – 15th overall – in the 2013 rookie draft.
The 7-foot Slaughter, the most precious jewel in that loaded draft class, delivered his usual numbers of 20 points and 10 rebounds but was hardly a factor in the pivotal period where he went scoreless.
That hurt Ginebra’s comeback bid.
“Pang pataas ‘to ng confidence sa akin kasi siyempre teammates kami (dati) tapos ngayon magkalaban na. And against them, nanalo kami,” said Erram, who served as Slaughter’s primary backup during Ateneo’s championships runs in 2011 and 2012.
“Ang laking tulong lalo na sa akin. Tapos ‘yung caliber ni Greg na player hindi basta-basta. Marami akong natutunan sa match-up na ‘yun.”
The 6-foot-4 Belo also inflicted the Gin Kings heavy damage with a game-high-tying 22 points on top of seven rebounds, three assists and three steals. But he insisted that Erram provided the big difference, saying: “Good thing na si Poy nag-step up. Nag-triple effort pa siya against Japeth and Slaughter.”
Thanks to Erram’s solid showing coupled with the timely baskets made by Belo and veteran Allein Maliksi, Blackwater finally put one over Barangay Ginebra in the all-Filipino tournament and scored just its second win after 10 meetings in their head-to-head matchup.
The Elite also improved their mark to 2-1 and tied the Gin Kings in the process. But Erram admitted he and the rest of his teammates hungry for success can only get better.
“Mas aggressive kami. ‘Yun nga, panay bata kaya unpredictable. ‘Yung effort namin andu’n, tapos fresh legs pa. Tsaka malaki pa ‘yung i-improve namin. Kaya nothing to lose, everything to gain kami,” he stressed.