MANILA, Philippines - (UPDATE) Barako Bull held its own against the solid front put up by the vastly improved Air21 team, squeezing out a 90-87 win in their closely fought match in the second playdate of the 2012-13 PBA Philippine Cup at the Smart Araneta Coliseum last night.
Ronald Tubid scooped in a missed layup by Rico Villanueva in the last 9.2 seconds as the Energy Cola, with their own new recruits, got off to a winning start in this tourney where they struggled with a 6-9 win-loss record for eighth place last year.
Tubid, now the main man of Barako following the departure of Willie Miller, led all scorers with 19 points that went with five rebounds and three assists against five turnovers in 34 minutes of play.
New acquisitions Sean Anthony, Josh Urbiztondo and Villanueva provided big help as Barako pulled through in this game and, in the process, kept its sister team still winless in this all-Filipino tourney.
Under the banner of Shopinas.com, the Lina Group introduced its second PBA team in this tourney last year. The Shopinas.com Clickers went without a single win in 14 matches.
"My hats off to Air21, they improved a lot. We didn't respect them in the first half. At halftime, I told the guys we have to play defense or we won't win this game," said Barako coach Junel Baculi.
The Express, an overhauled team with seven new players, did put up a tough battle, yielding the game only after going scoreless in the last 2:07.
They had a chance to force overtime but KG Canaleta missed a three-point shot from the left flank in the dying seconds.
Nonoy Baclao, John Wilson and Canaleta, among Air21’s offseason trade acquisitions, led the Express with 18, 17 and 16 points, respectively.
Baclao, the 2010 top draft pick, surpassed his previous career best of 11 right in the first half where he went 5-of-7 from the field and 2-of-2 from the stripe for 12 markers.
Anthony, Urbiztondo and Villanueva likewise played well in their debut with the Energy Cola, combining for 33 points, 28 rebounds and 10 assists.
Jones Cup heroes Jeff Chan and Gabe Norwood delivered big time in their Rain or Shine comeback and the whole team simply played tough as they repulsed the highly touted Petron Blaze team, 102-86, in the nightcap.
"As I said before the game, this is the best time to play Petron when they're still in transition, learning the new system under a new coach. They will be very dangerous in three to four games," said Rain or Shine coach Yeng Guiao.
The Elasto Painters started their 2012-13 season on a winning note even minus the injured Paul Lee and rookie acquisition Chris Tiu taking the exit early with a hamstring injury.