Cabagnot does it again for Petron

With only four seconds left and his team down by one, Petron Blaze coach Ato Agustin mapped out a make-or-break play for stellar rookie Chris Lutz.

Turned out, gutsy playmaker Alex Cabagnot eagerly took the hero’s role anew and pulled another late-game winner from his deep bag of tricks.

Living up to his nickname “Mr. Crunchtime,” Cabagnot drilled in the game-winning running jumper with nine-tenths of a second left that lifted the defending champions Boosters to a thrilling 98-97 cliffhanger over stubborn Air21 Express Friday night and into the semifinals of the PBA Governors Cup at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.

Jay Washington, fast regaining his sharp form, finished with a team-high 23 points, but it was Cabagnot’s crafty decisions in the stretch that spelled the biggest difference for the Boosters’ fifth win against four defeats, good for third alongside sister team Barangay Ginebra.

Pace-setting Rain or Shine (7-1) has already cemented its berth in the six-team playoff cast along with streaking Talk ‘N Text and B-Meg, both toting 5-3 slates.
“Actually, para kay Chris Lutz talaga ‘yung last play kaso sabi ko sa kanya ‘You’re still a rookie kaya sa’kin na muna to’,” disclosed Cabagnot, who finished with 13 points, six in the payoff period, on top of five assists and two rebounds.

The Express capped their season campaign with a 2-7 record, the same card of eliminated Alaska Aces, but not after pushing the Boosters to their limits.

After prolific Air21 import Zach Graham sank a pair of charities that gave the also-ran Express a 97-96 lead with just 4.2 ticks left, Cabagnot eluded the defense of Nelbert Omolon as he drove to the left then released the high-arcing, left-handed jumper over the outstretched arms of Mark Isip that successfully found the bottom of the net with just ninth-tenths of a second remaining.

With no more timeout left, the Express were forced to release a Hail Mary shot all the way from the backcourt that went way off the mark as the relatively-pro Petron Blaze crowd basked in glory and the Boosters mobbed Cabagnot in the other end.

After his charges blew a 90-84 lead with less than five minutes left, Agustin, as expected, was not satisfied with their end-game performance, saying: “Swerte lang. But a win is still a win. Pero hindi pwedeng ganun mangyari na ganun ang sitwasyon. We’re fighting for the semis.”

“Kailangan naming i-review ‘yung tape ano naging problema. Hindi kami makalayo. I think our import support, factor din yun,” he added.

Lutz, a shifty guard-forward who also tried to make life miserable for Graham, scattered 13 points in the second period and eventually finished with 16, the same output of lanky forward Arwind Santos.

Struggling to get his game going with a hurting left knee, import Eddie Basden visibly played out-of-sorts, finishing with just seven markers.

“Yung injury ni Basden, kailangang ipahinga ng two weeks. Ngayon may prospects, may mga names pero ‘di pa namin napapanood mga videos nila,” stated Agustin.

Though already bound for a vacation, Graham, an NBA hopeful, made sure his farewell stint this conference will be a memorable one, single-handedly lifting the Express out from a six-point hole in the crunch by scoring his team’s final 13 points.

His left corner trey put the Express ahead 95-94 with 37.1 seconds left but Washington, fishing a foul from Elmer Espiritu, canned his two freebies that gave the Boosters a 96-95 lead with 7.1 ticks remaining.

And that set the stage for a gut-wrenching showdown between Graham and Cabagnot.

Earlier, import Cedric Bozeman tallied 28 points while Mark Caguioa had 22 markers as the Gin Kings secured their semis spot with a 102-91 victory over Barako Bull.

Leroy Hickerson had 21 points for the Energy, who dropped to their fifth loss against three wins and are in danger of missing the semis.
 

 
The scores:
 
First Game
 
Brgy. Ginebra 102 – Bozeman 28, Caguioa 22, Villanueva 11, Wilson 9, Raymundo 9, Cortez 8, Maliksi 6, Ababou 3, Maierhofer 3, Canaleta 3, Hatfield 0.
 
Barako Bull 91 – Hickerson 21, Siegle 14, Miller 12, Allado 10, Pennisi 9, Tubid 7, Kramer 6, Najorda 5, Cruz 4, Salvation 3.
 
Quarterscores: 31-22, 54-43, 74-71, 102-91.
 
 
Second Game
 
PETRON 98 – Washington 23, Lutz 18, Santos 16, Cabagnot 13, Basden 7, Lanete 7, Baclao 6, Yeo 4, Miranda 2, Pena 2, Hontiveros 0.
 
AIR21 97 – Graham 40, Espiritu 16, Faundo 10, Ritualo 10, Sison 6, Escobal 5, Sena 2, Isip 2, Hubalde 2, Omolon 2, Arboleda 2, Menor 0.
 
Quarters: 20-22, 52-50, 79-75, 98-97.

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