COACH Leo Austria knew exactly what to expect when San Miguel Beer traded for Alex Cabagnot. What came as a surprise was how quick the wily guard was able to fit in.
Austria said he initially expected the left-handed Cabagnot to assist starting point guard Chris Ross with the playmaking chores for the Beermen, who topped the single-round eliminations with their 9-2 record to earn the top seeding in the playoffs.
Cabagnot delivered as expected, and more.
The six-foot guard averaged 17.0 points, 4.5 rebounds and 3.5 assists in two games in the PBA Philippine Cup semifinals, helping San Miguel grab a commanding 2-0 lead over Talk ’N Text.
He debuted for the Beermen this season with solid all-around numbers of 13 points, six rebounds and six assists as San Miguel whipped Talk ‘N Text, 109-86 in Game One.
Then the former University of Hawaii-Hilo guard stepped up his game further in Game Two.
With top big man June Mar Fajardo struggling to get going offensively against Talk ’N Text’s defense, Cabagnot took charge and scored 21 points, while adding three rebounds and an assist as San Miguel hacked out an 87-81 win.
[See San Miguel Beer outduels Talk 'N Text in fiercely fought Game Two, takes 2-0 lead in semis series]
“Iyan ang value ng isang Alex Cabagnot, kasi sa end game talaga, kailangan mo ang isang kagaya niya,” said a beaming Austria, whose prized point guard got the Accel-PBA Press Corps Player of the Week citation for the period covering December 16-21.
“Actually, ang sabi ko lang naman initially kay Alex is distribute the ball and spot up, pero ang kagandahan sa kanya, and di ko rin in-expect na ganun siya kabilis mag-adjust agad sa team,” he added.
With San Miguel grabbing a 2-0 lead in the series, Austria is expecting a tough, even more physical Talk ’N Text side to show up on Tuesday when they face off in a crucial Game Three at the Mall of Asia Arena.
But with Cabagnot around, the San Miguel mentor believes they have someone who can stabilize the team’s offense and bring in the extra hustle on defense as the Beermen eye their first finals stint since the 2013 Governors Cup.