PETRON turned to a familiar hero in Alex Cabagnot to turn back a fighting Air21 side, 90-88, and keep its unblemished slate in the PBA Philippine Cup on Wednesday night at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.
Playing in his first game of the season after being sidelined by a right foot injury, Cabagnot quickly made his presence felt as he hit the go-ahead runner to lift the league-leading Boosters to their sixth successive win.
“It’s gonna be good for his confidence coming off a long layoff,” Boosters coach Gee Abanilla said of Cabagnot, one of the league’s best closers.
However, the return of Cabagnot, who finished with 10 points and seven assists, somehow worries Abanilla, who also has Chris Ross back from injury and is still waiting for the comeback of Ronald Tubid and Yousef Taha.
“We need a lot of patience and understanding. We got guys coming back,” Abanilla said. “It’s gonna be a challenge for us coaches to be able to hone them and get the chemistry back.”
The Boosters fended off a gritty challenge by the cellar-dwelling Express, who were coming off their first win of the season, a 92-77 victory over Barako Bull.
Behind KG Canaleta and Macmac Cardona, Air21 kept the game close and even led in stretches, before eventually losing for the sixth time in seven games.
The heartbreaking defeat put to naught the own heroics of Canaleta, who buried back-to-back three-pointers inside the final minute that kept the score tied at 88.
The Boosters had six players scoring in double digits, with Chris Lutz leading the way with 25 points, four boards, and two steals, while Arwind Santos chipped in 14 points nine boards, and two blocks.
June Mar Fajardo registered a double-double of 13 points and 16 boards, on top of three blocks as he had the last laugh in his matchup with Asi Taulava, who posted similar impressive numbers of 16 points, 18 boards, and two steals.
Petron 90 - Lutz 25, Santos 14, Fajardo 13, Lassiter 12, Ross 10, Cabagnot 10, Hubalde 4, Lanete 2, Duncil 0, Kramer 0.
Air21 88 - Cardona 24, Taulava 16, Canaleta 11, Camson 10, Manuel 10, Arboleda 6, Sharma 4, Custodio 4, Jaime 3, Matias 0, Burtscher 0, Espiritu 0, Yeo 0.
Quarters: 19-10, 39-39, 59-60, 90-88