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PBA: Petron risks clean slate

ALEX Cabagnot2by Waylon Galvez

Manila, Philippines – After spending the early part of the season-opening conference in the injury list, Alex Cabagnot and Chris Ross will return to action as unbeaten Petron Blaze clashes with Air21 in the 2014 PLDT myDSL PBA Philippine Cup at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

This will be Cabagnot’s season debut after missing the first five games as he recovered from a tore plantar fasciitis (right foot), while Ross, acquired in an offseason trade, played the first two
games before missing the next three with a pulled hamstring.

Cabagnot and Ross are two of four injured players on Petron’s roster, with Ronald Tubid and Yousef Taha still recuperating from knee injuries and will return most likely by January next year.

Even without them though, the Boosters went 5-0 capped with an 86-85 cliffhanger against the Alaska Aces last Saturday at the Big Dome. With two key players coming in, that makes Petron an even more dangerous opponent. Gametime is at 5:45 p.m., before Meralco (2-3) and San Mig Coffee (1-4) collide at 8 p.m.

“They practiced already, and both of them looked good in motion. This is the fi rst time they joined a full practice. But still, with injuries, you want to be patient. So I think it’s a game-time decision for them,” said Petron coach Gee Abanilla.

“For us, the important thing is we just have to be good on what we’re doing. We are aware of what Air21 can do. They showed that they can compete and they are also coming off a win. So we just have to match their intensity,” added Abanilla.

Air21 finally barged the win column with a 92-77 victory against Barako Bull also last Saturday, snapping a 0-5 start as KG Canaleta came through with a double-double performance of 19 points and 10 rebounds while Joseph Yeo and Mark Cardona added 13 points apiece.

In the second game, both Meralco and San Mig Coffee are nursing recent defeats, with the Bolts falling to the Globalport Batang Pier, 93-89, and the Mixers bowing to the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters, 86-83, last Friday.

The setbacks dropped Meralco to a 2-3 card and San Mig to 1-4.

Former two-time MVP James Yap, who missed the team’s last two games with a hyper-extended left elbow, is expected to play after joining the team’s practice session yesterday. The team, though, will still miss the services of rookie Justin Melton.

While the Mixers will welcome Yap, no player is coming in from Meralco’s injured list, which includes Cliff Hodge (sprained ankle), Reynel Hugnatan (sprained ankle) and off-season acquisition Kerby Raymundo (knee).

“We were derailed in our last game. We went back to earth on a loud thud after the win against Ginebra. The last defeat gave us a strong lesson, that in the PBA, there is no place for complacency,” said Meralco mentor Ryan Gregorio.

“San Mig Coffee is bound to get better. They usually start this way but they’ll fi nd their bearings along the way. We must not let their 1-4 mark deceive us. They are a strong team and we are not coming in as the heavy favorites. We must find ways to compete and win,” he added.