Alex Cabagnot sank a last-second jumper to cap off a triumphant return as San Miguel Beer escaped with an 88-87 win over NorthPort in the opener of their PBA Philippine Cup best-of-three quarterfinals at the Don Honorio Ventura State University in Bacolor, Pampanga.
Cabagnot, who didn’t see action in all seven elimination round games in the Bacolor restart due to an injured left knee, added another heroic playoff performance by scoring off Sidney Onwubere with 1.5 seconds left that gave the Beermen a thrilling victory.
His winning shot came after NorthPort took the lead with 4.5 seconds left when Robert Bolick drained a long three near the center court logo. SMB coach Leo Austria immediately called a timeout and drew up a play for Cabagnot despite rejoining the team the other day.
“I know Alex is familiar with that kind of situation in that area. There were so many situations after that. There were so many situations after that but the first option, he was open,” said Austria, who also thanked inbounder Chris Ross for reading the play well.
“Alex, he knows what kind of situation we’re facing at the time, less than five seconds, alam niya yun e. Binibilang niya yun, kinekwenta niya yun,” Austria added.
NorthPort, with no timeouts left, tried to go for a win but Onwubere three off three defenders from the right elbow was way short as time expired, prompting SMB players to mob Cabagnot.
The veteran guard finished with 20 points, playing as if he was injury-free the whole time, as the Beermen moved one victory from heading back to the semifinals after last year’s campaign in the bubble ended with a quarterfinal exit.
It was another heartbreaking loss for NorthPort which came back behind Bolick, who scored the team’s last six points.
Bolick’s three-point play off a foul from June Mar Fajardo with 1:05 to go cut San Miguel’s lead to 85-84. Empty possessions by both teams ended with Cabagnot splitting his two foul shots for a two-point edge, 7.3 seconds to go, giving NorthPort a chance to tie or go ahead.
That set the stage for Bolick to launch a deep shot that mimicked those of NBA players Steph Curry and Damian Lillard to put the Batang Pier in front, 88-87.
But Bolick was left to watch the painful ending on the bench as Cabagnot saved the day for the Beermen.
Bolick finished with 13 points, with his late three-pointer the only one he converted in four attempts.
SAN MIGUEL 88 – Cabagnot 20, Tautuaa 15, Perez 14, Fajardo 10, Ross 12, Santos 9, Lassiter 8, Gotladera 0, Zamar 0, Pessumal 0.
NORTHPORT 87 – Anthony 16, Slaughter 15, Malonzo 13, Bolick 13, Taha 10, Elorde Ferrer 8, Onwubere 7, 3, Rike 2, Lanete 0, Balanza 0.
Quarters: 21-19, 44-43, 65-60, 88-87.