San Miguel Beer could only marvel at Robert Bolick’s deep roster that almost gave NorthPort a victory in the thrilling first game of their best-of-three quarterfinal series in the PBA Philippine Cup.
Bolick once again proved why he has emerged as one of the PBA’s rising stars when he knocked down a long triple near the center court logo of the Don Honorio Ventura State University that gave the Batang Pier an 87-86 lead with 4.5 seconds remaining.
But Bolick’s clutch shot would go for naught as far as NorthPort is concerned as Alex Cabagnot, also known for his clutch heroics, sank a game-winning jumper on the ensuing possession to seal SMB’s 88-87 win.
Cabagnot later said that it was doubly-impressive that Bolick’s shot came while being marked by the Beermen’s main defender Chris Ross.
“I mean, Chris Ross is one of the best, if not the best guard defender in PBA history. So when he made that shot, you know, it was just a testament to his hard work also,” Cabagnot said. “He had a great game. He had a great game and he hit a crucial shot.”
The NorthPort rising star got free from Ross using Greg Slaughter’s screen from the top of the key before he immediately hoisted up the shot that looked like those long triples casually made by NBA players Steph Curry and Damian Lillard.
Beermen coach Leo Austria eventually took the blame for allowing Bolick to have an opportunity to knock down the shot, even if the percentage seems unfavorable for the Batang Pier cager.
“Most of the time, he’s trying to shoot from that area. And it’s my fault na I was not able to tell some of the players na he can shoot even from midcourt. And it’s a gamble. Gamble e, talagang tumama,” said Austria.
“But we’re lucky because there’s still a lot of time remaining for us to score another basket,” he added.
Cabagnot said he was not caught by surprise with the shot, given the time Bolick made a similar attempt during NorthPort’s 122-94 win over Alaska last Sept. 24.
But Cabagnot also spoke highly of the third-year guard who is one of the early candidates for the Best Player of the Conference award.
“With these younger guys coming in, you just want the best for them,” he said. “I want the best for him and hopefully he continues and continues his hard work and we’re seeing it now, and hopefully we can see more of it in the future.”