Cabagnot hits game-winner as San Miguel outlasts NorthPort in QF opener

San Miguel spoiled NorthPorth’s attempt to steal the series opener in the 2021 PBA Philippine Cup best-of-three quarterfinals by pulling off an 88-87 squeaker behind the heroics of Alex Cabagnot, Sunday at the Don Honorio Ventura State University Gym in Bacolor, Pampanga.

Down by a point, 86-87, after Robert Bolick’s almost-half-court three-point shot, Cabagnot hit the game-winner inside the lane with one second remaining to snatch the victory away from a gritty Batang Pier squad.

Cabagnot’s long lay-off was a non-factor for champion coach Leo Austria who readily admitted that has complete trust in the Fil-Am guard during crunch time.

“The last play, Alex was the first option to receive, but his man anticipated his move, that’s why he got the ball out there, and I know Alex is familiar with that kind of situation, in that area,” said Austria during the post-game presser.

“There are so many options, Alex, he knows what kind of situation we’re facing at the time, less than five seconds, so alam niya ‘yun eh, binibilang niya na, kinukwenta niya na,” he added.

San Miguel led NorthPort by as high as 10 points in the final two quarters after a nip-and-tuck first half.

“My teammates didn’t mind me playing these minutes (coming from a long layoff). I had my apprehensions but in full fashion of our coach being a great coach, he gave me the confidence,” explained Cabagnot who scored 20 points on 53% shooting clip off the bench.

Back-up center Mo Tautuaa contributed 15 points and four rebounds, CJ Perez chipped in 14 markers while June Mar Fajardo, who got into early foul trouble, finished with 10 points and 11 boards.

Sean Anthony paced the Batang Pier with his 16 points, 8 rebounds and 4 assists before exiting the game due to ankle injury, while Bolick and rookie Jamie Malonzo added 13 points apiece. Greg Slaughter scored 11 points and hauled down 11 rebounds.

NorthPort had a higher field goal conversion with 42% clip but committed more turnovers with 14 compared to San Miguel’s 10. The Batang Pier, who entered the playoffs as the league’s top rebounding team with an average of 49.1 per contest, also succumbed to the Beermen in the battle of the boards, 56-50.

The scores:

San Miguel 88 – Cabagnot 20, Tautuaa 15, Perez 14, Ross 12, Fajardo 10, Santos 9, Lassiter 8, Pessumal 0, Zamar 0, Gotladera 0.

NorthPort 87 – Anthony 16, Slaughter 15, Malonzo 13, Bolick 13, Taha 10, Ferrer 8, Onwubere 7, Elorde 3, Rike 2, Balanza 0, Doliguez 0, Lanete 0.

Quarterscores: 21-19, 44-43, 65-60, 88-87.

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