PETRON Blaze survived an atrocious free throw shooting down the stretch to outlast Alaska, 86-85, and remain unbeaten in the PLDT myDSL-PBA Philippine Cup Saturday night at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Big man June Mar Fajardo carried the struggling and injury-plagued Boosters on his broad shoulders, hitting the team’s last seven points, including a 20-foot fadeaway jump shot that beat the shot clock.
But the Boosters began missing their free throws in the final 30 seconds and protecting an 86-79 lead.
The Boosters missed three of its four free throws late in the game, while Alaska went to JV Casio and RJ Jazul for a pair of crucial three-point shots to come within 85-86.
Paolo Hubalde had a chance to clinch the win for Petron in the final 1.8 seconds, but missed two of his foul shots.
Without a timeout, Alaska was forced to call one when skipper Tony Dela Cruz grabbed the rebound, automatically slapping the Aces a technical foul.
But again, Petron blinked as Marcio Lassiter, a 63.2 percent free throw shooter, missed the technical foul shot, opening the door for a possible Alaska win.
The inbound pass of Dela Cruz intended Jazul however, was swatted away by Arwind Santos near the half court line that all but preserved Petron’s immaculate slate at 5-0.
“I guess Alaska came in to play tonight. They really played well, had a good game, and we’re just happy to hold them off even though we missed free throws in the end,” said Petron coach Gee Abanilla, whose Boosters are the lone unbeaten squad in the 10-team field this conference.
Alaska, which dropped to 2-4, engaged Petron to 13 deadlocks and 13 lead changes.
The Aces, who brandished a more physical game throughout the match, also outrebounded the Boosters, 55-47.
But they had no answer to Fajardo down the stretch.
The 6-foot-10 gentle giant of Petron managed to keep himself composed even in the face of the tough defense put up on him by Alaska’s Calvin Abueva, Gabby Espinas, and Sonny Thoss made him bleed for every point in the paint.
“I think he’s (Fajardo) starting to improve on his free throws because he is commanding a lot of double teams. He’s composed and was knocking down those free throws in the end,” Abanilla said of Fajardo, who finished the game shooting 12-of-14 from the foul line.
The 24-year-old Fajardo earned his fifth straight double-double of the season with 20 points and 12 rebounds, while adding two blocks in 39 minutes of action.
Jazul led the Aces with 18, while Abueva added 19 and nine boards.
Petron (86) -- Fajardo 20, Lutz 15, Santos 15, Lassiter 12, Hubalde 10, Kramer 9, Duncil 3, Lanete 2, Deutchman 0.
Alaska (85) -- Jazul 18, Abueva 17, Espinas 11, Thoss 9, Baguio 9, Casio 8, Buenafe 3, Belasco 2, Dela Cruz 2, Hontiveros 2, Avenido 2, Exciminiano 2, Ramos 0, Eman 0.
Quarterscores: 17-17; 35-37; 56-56; 86-85.