PETRON Blaze head coach Olsen Racela officially nailed his first win without Rajko Toroman by his side after guiding the Boosters to a 110-98 win over newcomer Globalport on Friday night in the PBA Philippine Cup at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Hounded by the Batang Pier for much of the game, Alex Cabagnot exploded with a five-point cluster highlighted by a backbreaking three-point shot to help Petron pull away from a tight five-point game on the way to a 101-91 advantage entering the final two minutes of the game.
With Batang Pier turning the ball over a couple of times inside the waning minutes of the game, the Boosters finally got over the hump to register their second straight win and improve their record to 3-3 for solo fourth spot.
“We scored 110 points. Maganda yun, but we gave up 98 against Global. So we have to work on the defensive end. Siguro masyado kong binibigyan ng freedom ang mga bata, so there were stretches they didn’t really recognized ano pang-atake,” Racela said.
"But what I like about today is we were running and when we had to go through our sets, Arwind (Santos) was very consistent for us."
Racela candidly admitted that it was officially his “first win” as the team’s head coach after the departure of Toroman, who early this week was relieved from his position as Petron’s team consultant.
“Di ako sanay eh (coaching without Rajko). But that’s one thing I have to get used to. I have my players to thank kasi talagang sinusuportahan nila ako. This is my first game practically and they gave me words of encouragement. That meant a lot,” added Racela, who is celebrating his 42nd birthday on November 1.
Santos gave the Boosters the huge lift, scoring a game-high 29 points and grabbing 17 rebounds, along with two shot blocks for his third double-double of the conference.
Adding the much-needed firepower for the undermanned Petron side were Chris Lutz and Jay Washington who scored 16 points apiece, while Cabagnot and off-the-bench playmaker Dennis Miranda chipped in 15 and 10, respectively.
The Batang Pier remained in the cellar with their 1-5 win-loss slate in a tie with the Air21 Express, who earlier fell to the Alaska Aces, 81-92.
Racela said the difference between their first five games and the match against Batang Pier was that he gave his wards the freedom to execute and run the break when they see the opportunity.
“Sinabi ko sa kanila, I’m going to give you freedom especially in transition, but they have to make smart moves. Kasi nasanay sila sa halfcourt set. But if they start recognizing when to attack and then pull back out, we’ll be a more dangerous team,” explained Racela.
The Boosters, who played without injured big men June Mar Fajardo and Danny Ildefonso, still managed to outrebound the Batang Pier, 54-45.
With the game beyond doubt, Racela inserted guard Marcio Lassiter into the game at the 1:11 mark of the fourth quarter, and the former Smart Gilas standout, responded with a three-point shot off Globalport rookie Vic Manuel, sending the Petron fans in a frenzy.
Lassiter, acquired late last season from the now defunct Powerade franchise, has not played for the last six months due to various injuries. But Racela said they won’t rush him back.
Petron 110 - Santos 29, Lutz 16, Washington 16, Cabagnot 15, Miranda 10, Yeo 9, Pena 8, Lassiter 3, Mallari 2, Duncil 2, Sison 0
Globalport 98 - Manuel 23, Miller 15, Deutchman 14, Antonio 13, Vanlandingham 9, Mandani 8, Vergara 6, Al-Hussaini 4, Adducul 3, Yee 2, Guevarra 1
Quarterscores: 30-27, 48-48, 76-68, 110-98