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Sports

Petron dumps Barako Bull, enters playoffs

Joey Villar, Nelson Beltran - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines – Petron Blaze handled with relative ease former LA Laker DJ Mbenga on defense and put enough offensive effort as the Boosters repulsed the Barako Bull Energy Cola, 88-77, to formalize entry into the playoff phase of the PBA Commissioner’s Cup at the Smart Araneta Coliseum tonight.

Torched by Meralco import Eric Dawson with 57 points the last time out, the Boosters made a conscious effort to play tough defense and were amply rewarded, checking a three-game slide and clinching a quarterfinals seat with a 7-5 win-loss slate.

“After the last game, our battle cry for this game is defense. It’s embarrassing to allow your opponent score 57 points on you,” said Petron coach Olsen Racela.

“Last game was the first time this conference that we gave up 100 points. Going to this game, I told the guys let’s concentrate on the defensive end. Giving up 77 points to Barako, which is an offensive-minded team, is an accomplishment,” Racela added.

Offensively, Henry Sims, Alex Cabagnot, Marcio Lassiter and Arwind Santos showed the way for the Boosters, combining for nearly three-fourths of the team’s production.

Sims performed a lot better than Mbenga, piling up 23 points and 13 rebounds, and Cabagnot, Lassiter and Santos contributed double-digit outputs as the Boosters pushed the Energy Cola to the brink of elimination at 4-8.

Mbenga, who was obviously out-of-shape playing his first game since December, struggled for 14 points and 12 rebounds.

The Boosters scored the game’s first 12 points and had other crucial runs in the final half as they repeated their 91-78 conquest of the Energy Cola in their previous encounter.

Santos made an interception and slammed home, then Chriz Lutz scored on a layup and Marcio Lassiter pumped in a trey as the Boosters broke away for good at 82-66.

The win kept Petron Blaze in the running for the Top Two, but the Boosters coach said they’re not looking far ahead.

“We’re not looking at one and two anymore. All we want is to win as many games as we can. We don’t want to be in a spot where we play a team with a twice-to-beat advantage,” said Racela.

At 7-5, Petron is two full games behind pacesetter Alaska (9-3) and a game behind second-running Rain or Shine (8-4).

Racela, however, was hopeful they can get going especially with Sims already getting more familiar with his teammates and the PBA play.

“We’ll get Henry Sims more involved in our scheme of things. He’d just had two practices with us and he played back-to-back games. Luckily, we got one of two,” said Racela.

“He’ll get four practices after this game. Most probably, he’s already more comfortable playing with us in our next game,” Racela also said of Sims, their third import in the tourney after Rey Balkman and Rodney White.

ALEX CABAGNOT

BARAKO BULL ENERGY COLA

BOOSTERS

CHRIZ LUTZ

ENERGY COLA

GAME

HENRY SIMS

MBENGA

PETRON BLAZE

RACELA

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