Petron Blaze established a huge 22-point bulge through the first three quarters versus Meralco then stopped playing and needed a defensive stoppage in the dying seconds to squeeze through in the end.
As in their last game against the Barangay Ginebra Kings, it was good that the Boosters had had a big cushion, enough for them to salvage an 88-86 win over the Bolts in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup at the Smart Araneta Coliseum Wednesday night.
Renaldo Balkman and his teammates streaked to a third straight victory and, at 3-1, gained solo second place behind the pacesetting Alaska Milk Aces (3-0).
“(It was) an ugly game for us obviously but I take the win. Our goal coming into the first two weeks was 3-1, and we got it,” sighed Petron coach Olsen Racela.
“I charged it to experience. Ganitong klaseng game ang kailangan namin pagdaanan, not just me as a coach but the whole team. Eto yung mga adversities na kailangan namin. Lesson learned,” Racela also said.
Down 54-76 at the end of the third, the Bolts nearly stole the game with Vic Manuel just missing a potential game-winning three-point attempt at the buzzer.
Balkman himself floundered in the payoff period but had a defensive gem at the finish, delaying Chris Ross in setting up their final offensive play.
Ross helped engineer their incredible comeback, making 11 of his 12 points in the fourth quarter.
Meralco clobbered Petron, 32-12, in the final period as the Boosters suddenly stopped playing.
“We didn’t executive on offense and we didn’t play defense,” rued Racela.
The Boosters went scoreless in the first seven minutes of the payoff period, breaking their silence only on a charity by Balkman after the Bolts had charged back into the fight at 71-76.
Petron missed its first 12 field goals before finally making a conversion on a triple by Chico Lanete coming off the bench.
The Boosters earlier appeared would nail win No. 3 trouble-free even minus lead point guard Alex Cabagnot.
Denok Miranda ably filled in the shoes of the injury-stricken Cabagnot and the Boosters played impeccably through the first 36 minutes.
Then came the near disaster.
The Bolts narrowly missed stealing the game and went down 1-3 in the chart.
Cabagnot showed up in civvies as he sustained an injury in their last game versus the Barangay Ginebra Kings.
Balkman and Junmar Fajardo produced double-double numbers, combining for 42 points and 23 rebounds with Miranda contributing 11 markers, eight boards and three dish-outs.
Fajardo, Balkman and Miranda had made at least 10 points each as the Boosters sat on a 51-34 cushion at the half.
Petron broke the game wide open at 49-30 on a big second-quarter onslaught led by Fajardo and Miranda. (SB)