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PBA: Petron avoids 3-0 hole

Petron’s Arwind Santos scores on a slamdunk during PBA semifinal action yesterday at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City. (Bob Dungo Jr.)

By Tito S. Talao

Game Today (Mall of Asia Arena)
5 p.m. – Ginebra vs San Mig Coffee

Petron Blaze refused to tempt fate yesterday by fighting back from a 0-2 hole, scorching Rain or Shine, 106-73, in Game 3 of the PLDT myDSL PBA Philippine Cup semifinals at the Mall of Asia Arena.

The Elasto Painters, who lost coach Yeng Guiao to ejection after a second technical late in the third quarter, still lead the best-of-7 series, 2-1, but the Boosters have stepped away from the brink of disaster and put extra pressure on Rain or Shine to avert turning the series into a best-of-3.

Presented by Petron, the PBA Saturday Special saw the Boosters at their deadliest form this
conference, hitting outside shots at will and defending the fort against the league’s most ferocious team.

Rain or Shine would have been unbeatable as far as history is concerned had it made it three-in-row against Petron. But the only thing remotely close to the difficulty of denying a 3-0 team – which has never been done before – is winning the first three of a seven-game series.

The Elasto Painters found out early.

The Boosters had the answers right in the first half to all the questions that had plagued them in the first two games of the series, from their poor shot selection to their non-existent ball movement.

And with their backs against the wall, everything fell into place.

“This win is a big lift for us,” said Petron coach Gee Abanilla. “Well have more confidence coming into Game 4. We have to manage our emotions because we don’t want to turn it into something

Ronald Tubid and Alex Cabagnot set the tone by hitting consecutive 3-point shots to start the game as Petron led 8-0 and 15-4. The Boosters would add four more 3s before the quarter was over for a 6 of 9 clip from rainbow territory and a 29-12 advantage.

The Boosters ended the first 12 minutes with a 14-0 run, with Cabagnot, Marcio Lassiter and Chris Lutz each drilling treys.

As usual, the ball went to 6-foot-10 June Fajardo for the first option. But unlike before, the Boosters center didn’t force the issue, throwing the leather back out and triggering a rotation that consistently found an open man.

Petron also went on dribble-drive mode before kicking out to where its shooters were stationed. And when Rain or Shine tried to recover to the Boosters shooters, the ball went right back inside to Fajardo who muscled it in.

“June Mar showed more patience in finding open guys,” said Abanilla. “He’s slowly adapting to it and recognizing it properly.”

An 8-0 spurt by the Elasto Painters in the second quarter sparked a minor uprising, but the Boosters quickly stomped on the threat with back-to-back triples by Arwind Santos and Chris Lutz.

Rain or Shine coach Yeng Guiao drew his first technical with 3:18 left in the first half, but it did little to stem the tide or inspire his team back into the game.

Meanwhile, with their series tied at 1-1, San Mig Super Coffee and Barangay Ginebra San Miguel clash in Game 3 today at the Mall of Asia Arena, with the Mixers eager to recover lost ground and put behind them Friday’s debacle.

Stung by Tuesday’s Game 1 loss where they blew a nine-point lead late in the fourth quarter, 85-83, the vengeful Kings struck back in Game 2, mercilessly burying the Mixers, 93-64, behind Greg Slaughter’s 21 points and a rock-solid zone defense.

Slaughter was 8 of 11 from the floor with 12 rebounds while the zone held San Mig to 33 percent shooting, including 3 of 15 from 3-point range.

The Mixers shot 42 percent in Game 1, hitting 5 of 12 three-pointers. “Pati second five nila gumawa. Tapos pati sa rebound amang sila. Kinain kami ng buong buo,” San Mig forward Marc Pingris told Spin.ph.

The Kings ruled the boards, 55-32.

PETRON 106 – Santos 22, Cabagnot 15, Fajardo 14, Lassiter 13, Lutz 11, Kramer 8, Ross 8, Duncil 4, Tubid 3, Taha 3, Deutchman 3, Hubalde 2, Lanete 0.

RAIN OR SHINE 73 – Belga 14, Quinahan 10, Almazan 10, Arana 8, Norwood 8, Tiu 7, Tang 4, Ibanes 4, Lee 4, Rodriguez 2, Cruz 1, Chan 1, Nuyles 0, Teng 0.

Quarters: 30-12, 59-36, 77-62, 106-73