13 June 2011

Bolts 105, Boosters 100

Champ Oguchi
Champ Oguchi was expected to deliver the goods. But when Mark Isip joins the fray, Meralco sure is hard to beat.

The Bolts poured on the heat in the first three quarters before relying on Isip most during the stretch in holding off the Petron Blaze Boosters for a 105-100 win Sunday (12 June 2011) in the 2011 PBA Governors' Cup at the Cuneta Astrodome.

Isip nearly matched his career-high by coming off the bench for 28 points while Oguchi notched 26 points and 10 rebounds as Meralco won a conference-opener for the first time in three tries despite the absence of a couple of key players.

"Isip played way beyond expectations tonight," Bolts coach Ryan Gregorio said of the 6-foot-4 forward who missed tying his career-high, notched in the Philippine Cup while he was still with Barako Bull, by just a point.

Still, he scattered 10 of his points in the payoff period, including two charities that made it a safe 104-98 difference, only 30 seconds to go.

Gregorio pointed out it is all about not being daunted by going up against a perennial powerhouse team with a depleted team.

"I told my players the game is still played five-on-five and as long as we have five players on the court they will never have the advantage," he said.

"It's great being rewarded with a victory because we never stopped believing we could win."

The loss was a numbing one for Petron, which is looking to bounce back from a sorry Commissioner's Cup finish in which it wound up as tenth and last as San Miguel Beer.

Despite falling behind by 21 points, the Boosters made it a close 98-102 game behind the late-game heroics of Jay Washington and Alex Cabagnot, who combined for 19 points in the last period.

Any attempt by Petron to inch closer from then on was foiled, however, and Meralco went on to join Rain or Shine atop the leaderboard.

Washington and Cabagnot each wound up with 18 points to pace Petron and three other locals scored at least 11 points each as they vainly tried to make up for Ricky Harris' very disappointing debut.

Harris came in as replacement for Mike Taylor, who tore his hamstring in a tuneup game early last week. He did not shoot as poorly as the Llamados' Stefon Hannah, who only had eight points on 4-for-23 field shooting, but he sure came close.

Harris scored only eight points after going 3-for-15 from the field and 1-for-4 from the stripe before Petron coach Ato Agustin opted to go all-Filipino in the final eight minutes of the game.

"Obviously, they (Boosters) are still adjusting with their new import," observed Gregorio.

Meralco also had its own last-minute insertion in center Asi Taulava, who was initially committed to the National Team but brought back with the PBA board’s acquiescence due to the injuries that have plagued the Bolts just before the season-ending tourney commenced.

Aside from starting point guard Chris Ross (anterior cruciate ligament), free agent pick-up Chris Timberlake (strained calf muscle) and Marlou Aquino (strained hamstring), Meralco also lost Mark Cardona to a strained calf muscle injury that may sideline him for six to eight weeks.

No such adjustment was needed by Oguchi, who averaged five triples in the Commissioner's Cup and already had that many after the third period, which Meralco took 84-63.

Sol Mercado and Isip were also in the thick of things in the first half, coming up with the big plays in powering Meralco to a 51-40 bulge at the break.

The lead even got stretched to 74-54 and the game seemed practically over when the Bolts rained in six triples in the third period alone, with Oguchi and Mercado accounting for two each. (NC)

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