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BACK ON FIRE

05:44 PM February 11, 2013

IF THERE is one player who can catch anybody unawares it’s Josh Urbiztondo.

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The spitfirish playmaker consistently shone in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup opening weekend, helping severely undermanned Barako Bull get off to a rousing start in the mid-season tourney and earning for himself the Accel-PBA Press Corps Player of the Week award.

In the Energy Cola’s wins over defending champion San Mig Coffee and GlobalPort, Urbiztondo played key roles with averages of 20.5 points, 7.0 rebounds and 4.0 assists to emerge as the scribes’ unanimous choice.

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Those performances only tended to reinforce the growing reputation of the San Francisco-born guard, who went undrafted in 2009 but went on to finish runner-up to Rico Maierhofer in that year’s Rookie of the Year race and steadily assert himself as a gamer from then on.

Urbiztondo, who started out with Sta. Lucia Realty before making stops at Air21 and B-Meg, said he was just trying to do his part for the team that wound up next-to-last in the Philippine Cup.

“It’s such a blessing to have a 2-0 start this conference,” stated the man who turns 29 on Feb. 27. “I’m going to continue to contribute in every way I can to keep these wins coming.”

Barako coach Bong Ramos said a fiery performance from Urbiztondo should only be expected, considering his work ethic.

“He keeps pushing himself, in practice and in any game,” said Ramos, who was personal witness when Urbiztondo exploded for 31 points and earned the moniker ‘Fireball’ for their Air21 team two seasons ago.

“Iyung Josh Urbiztondo na iyon, I think nandiyan na siya ulit,” stressed Ramos.

Urbiztondo showed the fruits of his labor in a 79-75 upset over San Mig on opening day Friday, when he scored 17 points, grabbed nine rebounds issued four dimes.

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He followed that up with 24 points, five boards and four dishoffs last Sunday that helped the Energy Cola carve a 98-88 overtime win over GlobalPort that gave them the solo lead despite the continued absence of the injured Enrico Villanueva, Celino Cruz, Roger Yap, Sean Anthony, JC Intal and Emman Monfort.

Such a start only means Barako and Urbiztondo cannot stay under the radar for long and that’s the way they like it.

“That’s the challenge,” said Ramos. (NC)

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