02 December 2010

Bolts 73, Bull 70

Mac Mac Cardona
The Meralco Bolts turned to their defensive skills in the fourth quarter to turn the game around and got their sweet revenge against Barako Bull, 73-70, Wednesday (1 December 2010) at the Araneta Coliseum.

Macmac Cardona scored 21 points and Asi Taulava knocked in the go-ahead basket with 80 seconds remaining as Meralco extended its winning streak to four games, improved to a 6-5 [ win-loss] record and moved up to solo fourth spot in the team standings in the 2010-11 PBA Philippine Cup.

"We expected something like that. We knew Barako Bull, with a good coach, will not just sit down and die," offered Meralco coach Ryan Gregorio. "But during those anxious moments we stuck to our strength zone which is our defense. The reason we are getting reasonable success is because the players have learned to play defense and believe in themselves."

Chris Ross scored just four points on 2-of-12 shooting but he managed to hold Reed Juntilla -- the streak shooting Barako Bull guard -- scoreless in the fourth quarter particularly when the Energy Boosters needed to score. Ross also had six assists and three steals.

Paolo Hubalde and Sunday Salvacion each scored 13 points for Barako Bull, which led 68-67 with 4:42 to play but went without a field goal the rest of the way.

Their seventh consecutive defeat and 10th in 12 games overall virtually eliminated the Energy Boosters from playoff contention.

Barako has not had a losing streak that long since a seven-game skid during the elimination round of the 2010 Fiesta Conference.

Gabby Espinas scored 16 points on 7-of-12 shooting from the floor and Asi Taulava, back from a stint in the Asian Games, added 10 points for the Bolts, who won despite missing 11 of 21 free throws.

Meralco held Barako Bull 33 percent shooting to take a 39-35 lead after the first half.

Ogie Menor stretched the lead to 44-37 with a three-pointer early in the third but the Energy Boosters responded with 12-0 run to forge ahead. Jojo Duncil capped that spurt with successive three-point plays off feeds by Hubalde, giving Barako Bull a five-point lead.

Barako Bull made the count 64-58 on two free throws by Hubalde, who also had seven assists and three steals, with 9:39 remaining before Beau Belga and Espinas came up with back-to-back baskets to tie the count at 64.

Hubalde's lay-up put Barako Bull back in front and after both teams traded turnovers, Cardona scored on a floater in the lane and Chris Pacana split his free throws for a one-point Meralco lead with 5:12 remaining.

A lay-up by Richard Yee made it 68-67 for Barako Bull but the Energy Boosters went 0-8 from the field and went 2-of-5 from the free-throw line in the final 4:42 leading to their eventual downfall.

Barako Bull took its last taste of the lead at 70-69 on a split free throw by Mark Isip with 2:47 remaining before Taulava picked up a loose ball off a fumble by Cardona and completed the play that gave Meralco the lead for good. (DBC)

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