MANILA, Philippines - Alex Cabagnot, who has carved a reputation as a big-time crunch player, delivered another heroic act as Petron Blaze came from behind to stun Talk n Text, 95-93, and seize the 2-1 lead in their PBA Philippine Cup best-of-seven semifinal series at the Cuneta Astrodome last night.
Cabagnot banged away a triple with 12.9 seconds left and the Boosters completed an amazing fightback from a 20-point deficit to move a game up going to Game Four.
“They outworked us in the first half, but patience, perseverance and Alex’s shot in the end allowed us to salvage the game,” said Petron coach Ato Agustin.
“We’ve moved up in the series but it’s still hard to tell. It’s a good matchup,” Agustin added.
“We allowed them to come back and steal the game. We have no other option now but to win the next game. If we lose, it’s over,” said Talk n Text coach Chot Reyes.
Reyes took responsibility for the loss, saying he shouldn’t have put in Ryan Reyes in the dying seconds.
“I shouldn’t have put him there. He doesn’t understand instructions. The instruction was to stay close to Cabagnot. He helped (double on Danny Ildefonso) and that opened up Cabagnot,” said Reyes. “He doesn’t know the meaning of ‘don’t help’.”
A little opening allowed Cabagnot to knock down the big trey pushing Petron up, 94-93, for the first time after a long, long chase.
Larry Fonacier and Ranidel de Ocampo missed an attempt each in the closing seconds as the Texters eventually yielded the game and the series lead.
Cabagnot’s endgame brilliance actually came from what had looked like a broken play with Arwind Santos unable to take a shot as Ali Peek suddenly came in front of him.
Santos, however, was able to drop the ball to Danny Ildefonso who then kicked it out to Cabagnot, left open about three steps outside the arc.
He took one step then launched the game-winner that found its mark to the delight of Petron fans.
Santos, Denok Miranda, Danny Ildefonso, Chris Lutz and Joseph Yeo had their moments early on in the match marred by a near-fight between Ryan Reyes and Rob Reyes (not related to one another) towards the end of the first quarter.
The two players figured in a strong collision sending the Petron center down on the floor. They later engaged in a shoving match.
Cabagnot finished with 12 points, eight assists, five rebounds, one steal and one block against three errors in 35 minutes of play.
Santos came through with yet another double-double game with 25 points and 16 rebounds while Miranda, Ildefonso and Lutz contributed at least 11 points each.
Playing more aggressively, the Texters led by 20 points twice at 46-26 and 48-28 before settling for a 48-38 lead at the turn.
The Texters cashed in a lot on hustle plays to make up for their mere 33.3-percent field-goal shooting in the first 24 minutes of play.
Also helping a lot was Talk n Text’s perfect 16-of-16 free throws.
Petron, however, made the game a bit close at the half as Lutz, Santos and Miranda scored 10 unanswered points to close the second period.
The Boosters stepped up their chase in the third quarter to come to within three five times, the last at 67-70 on two free throws by Miranda.
The Texters, however, regained a double-digit spread at 81-70 on outside bombs by Jimmy Alapag, Kelly Williams and Jared Dillinger. - By Nelson Beltran