Petron a win away from semis berth
MANILA, Philippines — For the first 36 minutes, Petron Blaze point guard Alex Cabagnot struggled with his shooting and he wasn’t as aggressive like in their previous games.
Cabagnot knows, however, how to take over.
The veteran guard collected 10 points in the final frame punctuated by back-to-back four-point plays to help the Boosters win over the Meralco Bolts, 91-84, in Game 1 of their best-of-three quarterfinal series in the PBA Philippine Cup last night at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.
Held to only four points in the first three quarters on 1-of-7 shooting from the perimeter, Cabagnot came to life in the fourth period when he completed two four-point plays, first when he was fouled by Chico Lanete on top of the key and the other was on Mark Isip on the right corner.
That allowed the Boosters to shatter a tight 68-all to 76-68 lead with 6:26 to play. Cabagnot’s assist on Rob Reyes put Petron up by 10 points, 78-68, with 5:58 left in the game.
The closest Meralco got was when Gabby Espinas made two free throws, 80-86, but Cabagnot again saved the day for Petron when he drove inside the shaded lane and scored a lay-up on counterpart Sol Mercado for 88-80 advantage, 1:30 remaining.
“I just got to keep my composure and be patient,” said Cabagnot, who also collected seven rebounds and eight assists.
Petron is now a win away from clinching a semifinal slot and arrange a best-of-seven semifinal showdown against defending champion Talk ’N Text, which clinched the first Final Four berth by winning over Barako Bull (81-79) last Wednesday.
The Boosters will face the Bolts in Game 2 on Wednesday at the Big Dome.
Petron forward Arwind Santos finished with double-double 19 points and 12 rebounds, while rookie forward Chris Lutz, who missed the team’s previous five games due to a hamstring injury, had 18 points. Rob Reyes and Dennis Miranda finished with 12 and 11 points, respectively.
“We’re able to execute our game plan especially on defense. We started a little flat, but we’re able to adjust in the second half,” said Petron mentor Ato Agustin. “It’s good that we took the opener, so we’re hoping that we can carry this win, the confidence we got, in Game 2.”
“As for Alex, well, he’s always a take-charge guy. He’s able to carry the team. He can defend, he can score and he can pass,” he added.
Mercado led Meralco with 18 points, while Espinas had 13 markers.
Meantime, the PBA, on behalf of its Board of Governors, will be donating P100,000 to Gawad Kalinga as its Christmas gift to its Alagang PBA partner.
PETRON 91 – Santos 19, Lutz 18, Cabagnot 14, Reyes 12, Miranda 11, Yeo 9, Sharma 4, Ildefonso 4, Doruelo 0, Baclao 0, Tugade 0.
MERALCO 84 – Mercado 18, Espinas 13, Cardona 12, Isip 10, Taulava 9, Yee 7, Borboran 6, Timberlake 2, Macapagal 2, Omolon 2, Hugnatan 2, Lanete 1.
Quarters: 17-22, 40-40, 63-60, 91-84.