MANILA: GRACE B. CASTILLO
Published — Thursday 21 February 2013
Last update 20 February 2013 9:03 pm
Petron Blaze coach Olsen Racela talked about his team going through adversity the last time out.
He almost ended up getting what he wished for.
The Boosters almost lost a 22-point lead entering the fourth period last night and needed to dig deep in the stretch before nipping Meralco, 88-86, for their third straight win in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup eliminations at the Araneta Coliseum.
Playing without leading playmaker Alex Cabagnot, Petron went scoreless in the first seven minutes of the fourth quarter and needed a huge break from the referees in the waning seconds to pull out the win and improve to 3-1 overall.
Marcio Lassiter was sent to the free throw line by a questionable foul called on Vic Manuel with 31 seconds remaining, making both free throws and giving the Boosters an 87-83 lead that effectively proved to be the clincher.
The Bolts would come within a whisker in their next offensive after Chris Ross nailed a triple, but Dennis Miranda rounded out scoring for Petron with a free throw also off Ross with 23.9 ticks left.
Meralco, which lost a third straight game to be at 1-3, then missed taking the game into an extension when Manuel threw up an airball at the buzzer.
“It was an ugly game for us, obviously, but I’ll take the win,” Racela said. “We will just charge it to experience, not just for me as a coach but the team.”
Ross was the anchor of a whirlwind Meralco finish, shooting 11 of his 12 points in the fourth period to give the Bolts a chance to steal the game coming from 54-76 down at the start of the quarter.
Renaldo Balkman led the Boosters with 26 points and 11 rebounds and rookie June Mar Fajardo also completed a double-double for Racela with 16 and 12, with nine of his rebounds coming off the offensive end.
Talk ‘N Text, another powerhouse on the rise, took an entirely different route in winning a second straight outing, blowing Globalport to smithereens in the second half for a 99-79 decision.
The Tropang Texters were connecting from almost everywhere in the final two quarters while playing top-notch defense, holding the Batang Pier to a measly 32 points that allowed them to break free from a 49-45 game at halftime.
“We were able to accomplish some of the things we wanted to do in this game,” Talk ‘N Text coach Norman Black said. “After our last game (which was against Air21), we were dead-last in defense in the league and I reminded the team of that.”
Talk ‘N Text came into the game yielding an average of 91 points, and the Texters let the Batang Pier feel the brunt of their defense with Japeth Aguilar the hardest hit.
Aguilar, who played big in Globalport’s first three games, was held down to four markers in 28 minutes with a defensive rotation that he wasn’t able to solve.
Black assigned small defenders on the 6-foot-9 beanpole early in the game before switching import Keith Benson to shackle Aguilar in the second half. Aguilar made 1-of-8 field goals and was 2-of-4 from the free throw line.
Benson paced the Texters with 20 points, 19 boards and five blocks and Jason Castro fired 19 to lead three other locals in twin digits.
Justin Williams and Gary David both had 19 for the Batang Pier, with Williams pulling down 15 boards.
Sol Mercado, who came into the game norming 16 points and 13.3 assists, shot 14 but was held down to four feeds, the first time in four games that he failed to register a double-double.