By JONAS TERRADO
Returning San Miguel Beer guard Alex Cabagnot said he felt fortunate to be given the chance to hit the winning shot that beat NorthPort in the opener of their best-of-three quarterfinal series in the PBA Philippine Cup.
Cabagnot’s jumper with 1.5 seconds left that gave the Beermen’s a thrilling 88-87 victory Sunday, Sept. 26 in Bacolor, Pampanga highlighted an impressive return for the veteran guard after a seven-game absence due to a knee injury.
His heroics came after rejoining the team on the eve of the match and having no practice time after being left behind in Manila during the Bacolor restart to recuperate.
“A lot of people have been in my position and they didn’t get to play. Yung coach nila, they didn’t give them that tiwala,” Cabagnot after the game held at the Don Honorio Ventura State University.
“That’s all you could ask for as a player na bibigyan ka ng tiwala ng coach and you’ll just flourish,” added Cabagnot, which finished with a game-high 20 points for San Miguel.
The lefty cager admitted having second thoughts if his presence would provide a lift for the Beermen in time for the second phase of the season-opening conference.
He entered for the first time with 1:52 left in the first and ended the first quarter by scoring an up-and-under move over NorthPort’s Nico Elorde that put SMB on top 21-19.
Cabagnot got more comfortable as the game went by, and made nine consecutive points during one stretch in the third period.
“Obviously, I had apprehensions with it because hindi pa ako nakaka-practice kay Coach Leo, yung mga adjustments niya, yung mga drills niya,” he said.
“So I had apprehensions, but in true fashion like a great coach, he just gave me full confidence and my apprehensions went away and I just started having fun.”
He perhaps had more fun during the final seconds and SMB reeling from Robert Bolick’s deep three that gave NorthPort an 87-86 lead.
Chris Ross inbounded the ball quickly for Cabagnot, who quickly found a comfortable spot inside the left side of the arc against NorthPort’s Sidney Onwubere before sinking the shot that broke NorthPort’s heart.
With Cabagnot’s comeback performance done and dusted, SMB could only hope its long-time player could provide a pivotal role in the team’s quest to regain the Philippine Cup crown.
“Tamang-tama yung pagdating niya dahil talagang medyo kulang kami sa firepower and nakita naman yung firepower ni Alex,” said Austria.
“Once he gets on the court, no more adjustments needed for him kasi for the past five years alam namin ang tinatakbo ng sistema e kaya mabilis makaka-adopt e.”