PETRON Blaze spoiled DJ Mbenga’s debut for Barako Bull, scoring an 88-77 win on Sunday night to snap a three-game skid and clinch a quarterfinal berth in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
The Boosters, who grabbed solo third place after improving to 7-5, broke open an evenly matched affair in the third quarter where they never looked back after erecting a double-digit lead.
Showing a renewed commitment to the defensive end of the floor after letting Meralco import Eric Dawson score a season-high 57 points against them in a 102-92 loss last Friday, the Boosters extended a two-point halftime lead to 12 points entering and the fourth, a cushion which they maintained until the final buzzer.
They also limited Mbenga, the former NBA reserve who was clearly still getting back to game shape after a three-month layoff, to just 14 points and 12 rebounds, although those numbers were team-highs for the Energy Cola, who dropped to 4-8 and remained in ninth place.
Henry Sims, Mbenga’s counterpart, proved more solid, registering game-highs of 23 points and 13 rebounds in his second game since replacing the mercurial Renaldo Balkman.
“Our battle cry for this game was defense,” Boosters coach Olsen Racela said. “Nakakahiya yung iskoran ka ng fifty-seven points ng kalaban eh.
“I think giving up seventy-seven points to Barako Bull, which is a known offensive-minded team, is an accomplishment,” added Racela, whose wards’ loss to Meralco was the first game this conference they allowed a team to triple digits in scoring.
With the win, the Boosters are assured of a postseason stint in the import-spiced conference - actually Petron’s first quarterfinal appearance since 2002 or when the PBA last had a Commissioner’s Cup before having a break for seven years starting from 2003.
Racela said the Boosters are more concerned of winning of their last two games than eyeing one of the top two spots, currently occupied by Alaska and Rain or Shine.
“Right now, we’re not looking at one and two (spots) anymore. Ang concentration naming is to get as many wins as possible.
PETRON 88 – Sims 23, Cabagnot 20, Lassiter 14, Santos 11, Fajardo 6, Lutz 6, Miranda 6, Washington 2, Sison 0, Faundo 0, Lanete 0, Pena 0
BARAKO BULL 77 – Mbenga 14, Maliksi 13, Anthony 11, Pennisi 11, Monfort 8, Seigle 8, Urbiztondo 5, Macapagal 3, Duncil 2, Intal 2, Kramer 0
Quarterscores: 22-17, 40-38, 67-55, 88-77