2013 PBA Philippine Cup Roundup: December 11, 2013

June Mar Fajardo ended up winning his first match-up with former ABL teammate Asi Taulava, while the Bolts beat the Mixers behind hot shooting from the field in yesterday’s action from the 2013-2014 PBA Philippine Cup.

June Mar Fajardo got roughed up by As "The Rock" Taulava.

In the opener, Petron Blaze defeated Air21, 90-88, with Chris Lutz waxing hot. He returned from sick bay only recently, but it seems he hasn't skipped a beat. The former Marshall University standout drilled 2 triples on his way to a game-high 25 points as the Boosters climbed to 6-0 in the standings. Lutz also hit 9/11 free throws and added 4 rebounds and 2 steals to his total. Despite having someone with a very similar skill-set (read: Marcio Lassiter) on the team, Lutz is still able to contribute significantly, which simply means Petron is the early favorite to win the Philippine Cup.

The Express were simply outran and outworked in this one. They stuck it to the league-leading Boosters all game long, but they just couldn't close it out in the end. Air21 turned the ball over 20 times in this game, most of which led directly to Petron's 27 fastbreak points. And, despite leading the battle of the boards on both ends, the Express gave up 11 second-chance points to the Boosters. For coach Franz Pumaren, the message was clear -- close but no cigar.

Alex Cabagnot was an awesome playmaker in this game, ending up with 7 assists, but his best play was actually his game-winning floater at the end that lifted Petron to its sixth win in as many outings. Cabaggie finished with 10 points and 3 boards to add to his assists, and, well, he made the shot that counted the most.

In the main game, Meralco overcame San Mig Coffee, 72-64, behind great shooting. The Bolts struggled from long range, but they did convert on more than 52% of their 2-point attempts. They also limited the Mixers to a woeful 32% shooting from the floor. And it wasn't even really the bigs who did a lot of damage. John Wilson and Jared Dillinger paired up to connect on 12/20 two-point field goals as the Bolts' offense hummed.

SMC had more rebounds, more assists, more steals, more blocks, more free throws, and more field goal attempts. And still they found a way to lose. Coach Tim Cone's wards missed 50 of their 73 FG attempts and 10 of their 24 FTs. Those numbers were enough to negate any other advantage they had in this game. James Yap led the Mixers, but he shot 6/23 from the field. PJ Simon shot 3/13. Joe Devance made just 1/6 FGs. One word -- alat!

Ever the unheralded hero, Reynel Hugnatan came through once more for coach Ryan Gregorio. Hugnatan shot 8/12 from the field and finished with 16 points on top of his 8 rebounds, 1 assist, and 1 steal. He is seldom part of the "best big men" conversation mainly because it's not really fashionable to talk about an undersized big man in his mid-30s who has no endorsements or showbiz connections, even if said big man is one of the most efficient PFs in the league. Still, one can count on Hugnatan to bring his A-game  every night.

Game Recaps:
PETRON BLAZE over AIR21, 90-88
The returning Alex Cabagnot nailed a floater with 3.5 seconds remaining to give the Petron Blaze Boosters a thrilling 90-88 victory over the Air 21 Express on Wednesday at the SMART-Araneta Coliseum.

Back in the roster after missing the first five games of the season, the lefty point guard announced his return by doing what he does best — saving Petron in the clutch as the Boosters zoomed to a 6-0 record in the PLDT MyDSL Philippine Cup.

“It was a really tough win for us,” said Petron coach Gee Abanilla. “We were just lucky to have this win.”

The Boosters had to turn back a furious charge from Air 21, which battled toe-to-toe with the conference leaders all game. KG Canaleta, who struggled all game, hit two three-pointers in the final minute, including one with just 20.2 seconds left to tie the score at 88-all.

That set up the heroics of Cabagnot, who finished with 10 points and seven assists in 27 minutes.

“It’s gonna be good for Alex Cabagnot’s confidence coming from a long layoff,” said Abanilla.

But the veteran court general was far from the only hero for the Boosters, who were led by Chris Lutz, who finished with 25 points. Arwind Santos added 14 points and nine rebounds for Petron, which exploded for 31 points in the final period after failing to score more than 20 in each of the first three quarters.

The game featured a past versus present matchup between behemoths Asi Taulava of Air 21 and June Mar Fajardo of Petron. Taulava finished with 16 points on just 7-of-21 shooting (33 percent) along with 18 rebounds, while Fajardo managed 13 points on 4-of-10 shooting (40 percent) with 16 rebounds.

“I think Asi has a lot of gas in him, and he showed June Mar a few tricks tonight,” said Abanilla. “It’s gonna be good for June Mar.”

Chris Ross also made his return to the Petron lineup, finishing with 10 points, five rebounds, and six assists in 26 minutes of action.

Mac Cardona scored 24 points to lead Air 21, whose record fell to 1-6 on the season.

PET 90 - Lutz 25, Santos 14, Fajardo 13, Lassiter 12, Ross 10, Cabagnot 10, Hubalde 4, Lanete 2, Duncil 0, Kramer 0
A21 88 - Cardona 24, Taulava 16, Canaleta 11, Camson 10, Manuel 10, Arboleda 6, Sharma 4, Custodio 4, Jaime 3, Matias 0, Burtscher 0, Espiritu 0, Yeo 0
QS: 19-10, 39-39, 59-60, 90-88

KG Cañaleta tries to go up strong.

Alex Cabagnot's game-winning floater!

The Meralco Bolts used a suffocating 2-3 zone defense to rally back from an 18-point deficit before turning back the San Mig Super Coffee Mixers, 72-64, on Wednesday at the SMART-Araneta Coliseum.

The Bolts looked dead in the water, trailing by 18 points in the third quarter, 51-33, before they sprung their zone defense.

“Our shift from man-to-man to zone threw their rhythm off, and we made shots at the right time,” said Meralco coach Ryan Gregorio, who credited assistant coaches Ronnie Magsanoc, Xavi Nunag, and Patrick Fran for the adjustment, which allowed the team to offset the Mixers’ sizable height advantage.

The ploy paid immediate dividends for Meralco, which closed the third quarter on a 13-3 run to cut the San Mig Coffee lead to just eight points, 54-46, heading into the final period.

San Mig Coffee completely fell apart in the fourth quarter, managing to score just 10 points as they looked lost against the Bolts’ defensive scheme. The Mixers shot just 2-of-19 (10.5 percent) in that stretch.

On the other hand, Meralco hummed for 26 points over the same span, with John Wilson (12), Jared Dillinger (eigth) and Reynel Hugnatan (six) scoring all of the Bolts’ points in the quarter.

“We grinded with our small group, and John Wilson, Papa Rey (Hugnatan), and Jared Dillinger hit some timely shots,” said Gregorio as the Bolts improved their win-loss record to an even 3-3.

Wilson finished with 19 points, all scored after halftime. Hugnatan and Dillinger added 16 and 13 points, respectively. They more than made up for an off game from leading scorer Gary David, who had just five points before sitting out the Bolts’ rally.

James Yap led San Mig Coffee in scoring and rebounding with 14 points and nine rebounds. Marc Pingris and Mark Barroca had 12 points and 11 points, respectively, for San Mig Coffee, which lost for the fifth time in six games.

MER 72 - Wilson 19, Hugnatan 16, Dillinger 13, Al-Hussaini 7, David 5, Sena 4, Cortez 4, Salvacion 2, Guevarra 2, Timberlake 0, Allado 0
SMC 64 - Yap 14, Pingris 12, Barroca 11, Simon 10, Sangalang 7, Devance 3, Cawaling 3, Mallari 2, Reavis 2
QS: 16-12, 29-37, 46-54, 72-64

Gary David tests the defense of PJ Simon.

James Yap led the way in the Mixers' losing effort.

Source: Unless otherwise specified, game recaps were compressed and compiled from InterAKTV. (Writing credit to Rey Joble)

Images: Unless otherwise specified, images are from the PBA and AKTV. (Photo credit to Paolo Papa)

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