PETRON Blaze’s game may falter at times, but it could still prove enough to overcome.
Like last Friday, when the Boosters sputtered yet managed to get by the Air21 Express, 60-53, and secure at least a share of second-running spot in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Renaldo Balkman scored 25 points and Arwind Santos tallied his second double-double of the conference while leading Petron’s modest fourth quarter breakaway and into its fourth straight win in five games.
“It was a defensive game for both teams and the scores showed it,” was how Boosters head coach Olsen Racela explained the outcome, which rewrote several entries in the league’s record books.
“At halftime I told the guys that I don’t care if we have a low-scoring game, as long as we make the stops,” added Racela.
His charges heeded the call by harassing Air21 to a measly 5-for-20 field shooting and into committing four turnovers in the deciding period that gave the Boosters separation from a 41-all game after three quarters.
Balkman took the lead on the offensive end with eight of his points, including a drive that made it a 59-51 count, 1:16 left., for Petron Blaze which recorded its longest win streak under Racela.
“I’ve got to hand it to Balkman,” said Racela of his import who also had 13 rebounds and two steals. “There were some stretches where we couldn’t get anything going. But in the fourth Rey, being the leader that he is, stepped up and we went to him and he gave us that cushion in the end.”
Santos added five in the same quarter, although he left the game a bit red-faced after coming up short on a dunk try that would have put an exclamation point to the game.
Bonbon Custodio’s eight-foot jumper made it a six-point game with still 50 seconds remaining, but Chico Lanete canned a charity and Santos pulled off a steal that virtually sealed the outcome.
Michael Dunigan was the lone Express in double figures with 15 and he also had 23 rebounds in their fourth straight loss that tied them for ninth with lone victim Barangay Ginebra, idle at 1-4.
Things would have been different had John Wilson converted on a drive that would have further trimmed a 53-59 deficit. But he was bothered enough by a charging Ronald Tubid and the Express opted for a reverse that went wide and hard off the board.
That miss best exemplified Air21’s woes.
In the end, the winning score is the lowest in the history of the team formerly known as San Miguel Beer and tied the sixth all-time triumphant output in league history.
The 53, meanwhile, is the all-time lowest in Air21 franchise history since entering the league last season as Shopinas.com, equaled the seventh all-time worst output in a game and the combined scores is now occupying fifth in league books and the lowest since Sta. Lucia beat Purefoods 54-53 on May 22, 2005.
The final stats tell the tale.
Petron made just 24 of 75 field tries and missed half of its 20 charity attempts. Air21 converted just 21 of 76 attempts from the floor and muffed five of 13 free throw tries.
The protagonists also took turns coming up with one bad quarter.
Air21 missed its first 10 field goal tries in the second quarter and wound up with just seven points in the period for a halftime score of 24, right there an all-time low for the Bert Lina-owned franchise.
Yet the Express did not stare at a deficit beyond 10 and even managed to catch and overtake the Boosters after the latter made just one of their first 18 shots from the field also for just seven points in the third quarter.
Aside from anchoring the defense on KG Canaleta, Tubid chipped in seven points, including a triple that snapped Petron out of its rut and Santos followed up with four straight charities that restored the Boosters on top, 41-40.
Dunigan’s charity pegged the game’s last deadlock at 41, but whatever hopes Air21 may have dimmed when Balkman opened up the final canto with six straight points and Tubid added a jumper that made it a 49-41 count. (NC)
PETRON BLAZE 60 – Balkman 25, Santos 11, Lassiter 7, Tubid 7, Miranda 6, Lanete 4, Fajardo 0, Yeo 0, Washington 0, Pena 0.
AIR 21 53 – Dunigan 15, Custodio 8, Canaleta 8, Cortez 7, Isip 6, Wilson 5, Omolon 2, Arboleda 2, Atkins 0, Sena 0, Baclao 0, Menor 0.
Quarterscores: 18-17, 34-24, 41-41, 60-53