<
>

How Aldin Ayo has the Converge FiberXers on an unexpected winning run

Rookie coach Aldin Ayo has his Converge FiberXers squad racing up the ranks in Commissioner's Cup. PBA Media Bureau

As a collegiate coach, Aldin Ayo was known for his "mayhem" defense, which suffocated opposing teams and disrupted their offensive schemes. This approach helped Ayo become one of the few Filipino coaches who have won basketball championships in rival collegiate leagues the NCAA and the UAAP.

After accepting an offer to become head coach of the PBA's newest team, the Converge FiberXers, Ayo made it clear that "mayhem" wasn't about to make a comeback given the talent level he would now be facing. What he probably wasn't counting on was an opposing coach flipping the script and trying to inflict his own version of mayhem on Ayo.

In a battle between the league's two hottest teams, both of which had five-game winning streaks on the line, Ayo's FiberXers topped the Phoenix Fuel Masters, 132-127, Wednesday night. The 132 points were the highest in Converge's short PBA history, as were the 22 3-pointers the FiberXers buried. While Converge is the league's top team in points scored (109.8), the pace on Wednesday took the team out of their comfort zone and forced Ayo to adjust.

"We tried to simplify our plays because we were disrupted by their zone press," Ayo said. "We got delayed by their zone press so we just called our short plays. That's the adjustment we made and we made sure to put the players in the right spots where they could score."

Phoenix coach Topex Robinson, who like Ayo is a young tactician that employs unconventional methods to shake things up, confused the FiberXers early with new looks on both ends of the floor which led to a faster pace.

"Lots of possessions because of the pace," Ayo said. "Lots of transition 3s. In terms of defense, we had a short time to prepare. We were affected by their schemes. Coach Topex had great plays. His players were put in the right spots and they know how to exploit it."

For two and a half quarters, it worked. The Fuel Masters were in control until midway through the third quarter before Ayo finally countered with his own disruptions.

"I think [the Phoenix offense] was disrupted by the changing defense that we were doing," Ayo said. "That's where they encountered problems. But that's also what Coach Topex was doing to us. For sure Coach Topex thought, 'No more execution. Let's just run and run.' Everything was disrupted."

With the win, Converge is now in second place with a 7-2 record. Their six-game winning streak is the longest by any team this conference. Yet Ayo is not satisfied.

"To be honest, we're winning but in a way our game is deteriorating," he explained. "We stepped out of our system against NLEX just to win the game, and in this game we stepped out again because Coach Topex used a very unconventional approach. So we're declining a little bit. Good thing the conditioning is there, and the players are ready physically.

"We want the players to be consistent. If the final buzzer hasn't sounded yet, continue playing. We were up by 8 or 6 points and we relaxed and we had a turnover and they were able to convert it. (There were) two consecutive possessions that we were not able to execute our game plan. That's crucial. If you cannot finish the game the right way, it's hard to win. It's all about finishing hard and being consistent."

FiberXers import Quincy Miller, who torched the nets with 45 points built around 8 3s, said the team isn't really looking at their record.

"To be honest with you, we're not really like focused on the winning streak. We're just focused on the fundamentals, just being better every day and just getting better at what we're doing. We're not really focused on all the extra stuff."

Converge doesn't play until Sunday, when they go for a seventh straight against the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters, but Ayo said there would be no rest.

"We're not going to have a break. We're going to have an active rest because we want to return to the right approach."