MANILA, Philippines – In their first meeting since the draft trade that will forever live in infamy, the Kia Picanto booked a shock 78-75 victory over the San Miguel Beermen.
Never mind that it came during the preseason against an undermmaned SMB squad: a win is a win for the Picanto and their coach, Chris Gavina, as they seek to move on from the notorious trade that sent the top pick in the 2017 PBA Rookie Draft to San Miguel, in exchange for some of the Beermen's bench players.
It helped Gavina immensely that the player in the center of the trade – a transaction that was widely panned by PBA fans – was not there during their preseason game against San Miguel on Tuesday at the Claret School Gym.
Christian Standhardinger, the No. 1 overall pick, is still playing for Hong Kong Eastern, the defending champions of the ASEAN Basketball League.
"Not anymore because we know that we're not going to face him," said Gavina, when asked if the trade was still on his mind. "I'm kinda glad that he's in Hong Kong right now."
"We gotta move forward," the coach stressed. "Our guys have taken the mentality of 'next man up.' Anyone I can pull off the bench is ready to provide for us."
Gavina refused to dwell on what could have been and instead took pride in what his team was able to do against the Beermen on Tuesday. San Miguel was shorthanded, true, with JuneMar Fajardo resting, but they still featured plenty of talent with stars like Chris Ross, Marcio Lassiter, Alex Cabagnot, and Arwind Santos all playing.
They were mostly stymied by Kia's defense, however. The Picanto led by as much as 15 points in the third quarter, and when the Beermen threatened to steal the win late in the game, Kia came up with some impressive stops to preserve the victory.
"This goes a long way for us, probably more than San Miguel," said Gavina. "It's a big confidence-builder."
"One of our team goals this year is to keep teams under 80 (points), and we kept San Miguel to 75," he explained. "Honestly, that's the only way we're going to come out with wins. We stick to that mentality."
Young players like Glenn Khobuntin, Prince Caperal, Rashawn McCarthy and Jackson Corpuz showed plenty of promise for Gavina on Tuesday, with Caperal coming through with some clutch baskets and McCarthy providing a huge block on Santos in the final minute of the game.
They limited San Miguel to only 31% from the field, and Gavina is hopeful that they can carry that same defensive intensity in the upcoming All-Filipino Conference.
"We're envisioning being one of the more disciplined offensive teams," he said. "We have to be able to really maintain our up-tempo pace and pressure in the backcourt defensively."
"We want to generate our offense from our defense. We're aiming towards a defensive mindset," he added.
(For more sports coverage, visit the ABS-CBN Sports website.)