TNT still remembers how Alex Cabagnot celebrated a big shot that lifted San Miguel Beer past the Texters in the elimination round. Cabagnot mimicked an archer and pantomimed shooting an arrow at the bench in celebration of the victory.
“You have to give credit to him because he [buried a clutch shot] against or defense,” said TNT coach Nash Racela of the game, which the Texters lost, 98-94, after what seemed like a won game for them.
“That gave him a right [to celebrate animatedly],” added Racela. “Now we have to take away that right.”
And TNT felt pulling off an 87-85 victory over San Miguel on Friday was a means to that end, a bonus prize outside of equalizing the best-of-7 semifinals series to 1-1 and inflating a morale popped by a 111-98 Game 1 defeat.
“I think [the TNT players] heard the message of Alex. At the same time, in a way, they retaliated and gave [Cabagnot and the Beermen] a message.”
“If you watch Alex, at least in this series, he no longer does it. I’m just happy he’s not doing it anymore. On our part, that’s one of the objectives too, that we won’t allow him to do that.”
Cabagnot had been a thorn to the Texters’ side, his clutch baskets hurting the Texters several times in their matchups.
But Racela said TNT has learned its lesson from past defeats and gave Cabagnot more focus in the end game, denying him and Arwind Santos a decent shot attempt in the final 6.2 seconds of Game 2.
However, Cabagnot said that he didn’t really mean any harm with his arrow gesture.
“That’s just basketball,” he said. “I can’t speak for them. It’s one thing we did in the eliminations. That was a no bearing game for us and Gabby (Espinas) and I were just working on some stuff.”
Finishing with 24 points, five rebounds, and three assists in the Game 2 loss, Cabagnot explained that the reason he stopped doing the arrow celebration was because of the gravity of San Miguel’s challenge—the Beermen are hunting a third straight Philippine Cup title.
“It’s serious time right now. I haven’t done it. It’s the second game and I’m not going to do it. I’m not the Arrow or whoever you call me. That’s so lame. It’s yuck. I don’t hear you call Beau Belga, ‘the Shotgun Barrel,’ I don’t know. The biggest thing about that situation is I made the shot. People forget that I made the shot.”
The veteran playmaker, though, said that even though he wasn’t able to pull through for the Beermen this time, if the opportunity presents itself, he won’t shy away from taking that last shot again, something he has done for a number of times before.
“I had something in my head and it just didn’t work out the way I wanted to. It will come again. I’ll have that opportunity again,” he said. “When it comes down to it, I know that opportunities are going to come again and God’s going to be good to me and He’s going to grace me with his blessing.”
And Cabagnot expects more of the same grind-out basketball for the rest of the series as San Miguel and TNT battle in a virtual best-of-5.
“We will definitely go through our adjustments accordingly and fix what needs to be fixed for Sunday. One thing’s for sure, two things’ for sure, it’s going to be a close game for the rest of the series,” he said.