MANILA, Philippines—Petron Blaze head coach Olsen Racela simply summed up his game plan in one word: defense.
And the Boosters responded to the challenge following an 88-77 win over Barako Bull Sunday night in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
“After our last game, our battle cry for this game was defense,” said Racela. “Nakakahiya yung iskoran ka ng [import] ng kalaban ng 57 points. Last game was the first time we gave up over 100 points this conference.”
“Going into this game sabi namin dapat concentrate tayo on the defensive end and giving up 77 points against Barako Bull who is known to be an offensive-minded team is an accomplishment,” Racela, whose squad ended a three-game losing skid, added.
Import Henry Sims recorded 23 points and 13 rebounds to go along with three blocks to lead Petron (7-5), which clinched its first Commissioner’s Cup playoff spot since 2002 when the Boosters finished third according to PBA head statistician Fidel Mangonon.
“Right now we’re not looking at one and two anymore ang concentration namin is to get as many wins as possible. Now that we’re in the quarters, positioning ang hinahabol namin. We don’t want to be at a twice-to-beat disadvantage.”
Petron broke loose in the third period, ran into a few bumps early in the fourth before pulling away for good midway through.
The Energy Cola, who paraded former Los Angeles Lakers reserve D.J. Mbenga, pulled to within seven, 60-67, on Mbenga’s hook shot with 10:46 left.
But that was the closest Barako Bull came as Petron put on another run to extend its lead to 16, 82-66, on a triple by Marcio Lassiter.
Lassiter, who has been on a tear as of late, continued his impressive play with 14 points, four assists and two steals.
Alex Cabagnot added 20 for the Boosters, who controlled the boards with a 57-44 advantage.
Petron, which held Barako Bull to just 31.5% shooting from the field, saw Meralco import Eric Dawson erupt for 57 points in the Boosters’ 92-102 loss last Friday.
Mbenga, still groping for form after being off the court for three months, had 14 points, 12 rebounds and two blocks.