07 July 2011

Bolts 93, Air21 86

Bolts vs Air21
Meralco was about to put Air21 out of its misery, but it took a lot of doing going about it.

The Bolts managed to fashion out a 93-86 Wednesday but only after going through some rough and anxious moments in the PBA Governors’ Cup at the Araneta Coliseum.

New import Tim Pickett debuted with 32 points and 11 rebounds and Meralco totally dominated the boards, but it was Sol Mercado taking charge at the finish that enabled the Bolts to completely hurdle Air21's challenge.

Aside from Mercado's seven fourth quarter points, he was at the forefront of Meralco's wind-up with two of his eight assists that pulled the team away from an 83-80 count and into an 89-80 spread.

The Express shot 0-for-2 from the field and committed two turnovers in that stretch.

In the end, Meralco cut short its two-game losing skid and improved to a 3-2 win-loss record due to what coach Ryan Gregorio later said was his charges adhering to their gameplan.

"We talked about the biggest chance to win hinging on our playing tough defense," related Gregorio. "Our goal was to limit our opponent to less than 88 points and we achieved that goal."

The loss, its fifth in as many outings in the eight-game eliminations, likely booted Air21 out of the running for a semifinals slot allotted to the top six teams.

Pickett scored only two points in the fourth period, but Gregorio said the help the import extended Mercado in the backcourt chores enabled the latter to have an endgame kick.

Asi Taulava, Gabby Espinas, Nelbert Omolon and Yousif Aljamal did their share in dispelling the Air21 threat, helping make up for the continued absence of Mark Cardona, who suited up but did not play.

Taulava had 16 points and 12 rebounds and Pickett and Aljamal had at least 10 boards each as the Bolts had a 67-32 dominance off the glass, including 27-9 off the offensive end.

Air21 coach Bong Ramos was forced to mainly use Danny Seigle at the center position and Elmer Espiritu at the power forward spot and also drew a 0-for-8 field shooting from Dondon Hontiveros.

That still didn't stop the Express from making a tight game of it, though.

With its second- and even some third-stringers doing the most damage, Air21 came charging back from two 15-point deficits in the third period to threaten within three thrice in the fourth period, the first at 65-68, behind Leo Najorda, Leo Avenido and Wynne Arboleda. (NC)

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