12 October 2011

Bolts 79, Clickers 72

Meralco's Asi Taulava
Meralco's prized players were hardly missed Wednesday (12 October 2011), not when there were still some able bodies to fill up the gaps.

None bigger than Asi Taulava, who scored a crucial fallaway jumper to point the undermanned Bolts to a 79-72 victory over the Shopinas.com Clickers 79-72 for their breakthrough win in the PBA Philippine Cup at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

Gabby Espinas, Mark Macapagal and Mark Isip each scored at least 11 points, but it was Taulava's shotclock-beating fallaway that solidified the Bolts' triumph following an 80-98 loss to Talk 'N Text in their conference debut game last Friday (7 October 2011).

Paolo Hubalde scored a career-high 21 points but Shopinas still dropped its second straight game after failing to pounce on the opportunity presented by the absences of injured Meralco players Mark Cardona, Sol Mercado, Reynel Hugnatan and Chris Ross.

"It was a great challenge for our players who were inserted to our team to play a role but, because of the turn of events, they were entrusted to be superstars," noted Gregorio, adding defense was also a huge factor in the win.

"We got our defensive legs ready and we limited them to 72 while scoring just enough to win," he stated.

It is also undeniable that the 38-year-old Taulava's shot came at the most opportune time.

"Asi bailed us out," stressed Gregorio. "It was good timing Asi got the ball in the post."

Taulava, who wound up with a game-high 10 rebounds to go with seven points, said he was simply trying to do his share and did by making it a 77-72 count going into the last 25 seconds of play.

"Coach was telling us during the timeout, 'Big players come out to play, so you either step up or watch the game.' I felt I had to do something. The shotclock was winding down and I had the ball in my hands," said the man who joined the league in 1999 and earned its highest individual honor in 2003.

The basket visibly took the win out of Shopinas' sail as James Sena lost the ball in the ensuing play and Macapagal capped a 14-point night with two charities that made it a 79-72 count that stood when Mark Borboran blocked a Ren-Ren Ritualo triple try before the final buzzer.

It also gave the ending a veritable runaway twist that seemed hardly likely after the Clickers came charging back from a 57-69 deficit and threatened within 72-75, still 66 ticks left.

Espinas scored eight of his team-high 16 points in the third period that saw Meralco erect four nine-point leads, only to go into the fourth period with just a 58-52 spread.

Hubalde and Khazim Mirza were the main reasons why Shopinas kept within the coattails of Meralco by scoring six points each in the third period.

Espinas and Isip took turns taking the lead for Meralco, enabling the Bolts to fend off Shopinas' repeated surges and take a 32-31 lead at the half.

The two frontliners each had eight points at the half as the Bolts shook off a sluggish start to go up by as much as 30-22, 3:14 to go in the second period.

Doing most of his damage around the rim, Isip went 4-of-6 from the field and Espinas 2-of-2 as Meralco made 10 of 21 tries to Shopinas' 8-of-23 shooting.

That didn't stop the Clickers from continuing their scrappy plays, resulting in two steals they translated into four of their six points that trimmed the deficit at the turn.

Meralco actually started cold, committing 11 turnovers in the opening quarter and making just four of 15 field goal tries.

Shopinas fared just only a bit better from the field (5-of-25) for an 11-9 lead that stands as the league's lowest combined score for any quarter in the last four conferences. (NC)

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