29 October 2011

Bolts 81, Aces 75

Meralco beat the best team in its last outing. The Bolts definitely wouldn't forgive themselves had they lost to a winless ball club.

Pounding the boards hard and getting big games from the returning Mark Cardona and Chico Lanete, Meralco outlasted Alaska Friday night (28 October 2011), 81-75, for first back-to-back win in the PBA Philippine Cup at the Araneta Coliseum.

The Bolts out-rebounded the Aces, 54-28, while Cardona and Lanete combined for 17 points in the fourth quarter to deal Alaska its fifth straight defeat, its worst start in an all-Filipino tournament according to statistical records since 1992.

"The defense we have been talking about bailed us out again," said Meralco coach Ryan Gregorio. "We wanted to make sure that we build our character in this game. We battled the best team in our last game and we won, and the challenge was to win against a struggling team."

The Bolts were fresh from an 80-70 victory over Petron, earning bragging rights as the first ballclub to tarnish the Boosters' erstwhile undefeated record. Last night, they met a team trying hard to re-discover its rhythm under a new head coach in Joel Banal, and the Aces nearly succeeded snapping out of a slump when they led by as high as 10 points, 52-42.

But Meralco nibbled its way back and was solid down the stretch. The Bolts forced the Aces to come out empty-handed in their last three possessions in a clear testament over how vastly the franchise has improved at the defensive end.

Yet more than anything else, the Bolts pummeled the Aces in the rebounding department, pulling down 54 to Alaska's mere 28. The Bolts also had 13 more offensive rebounds.

"We're playing with a near complete roster with Mac-Mac back and Chico again coming into play when Sol was grounded," Gregorio said. "But pretty much it was a total team effort. This just goes to show that you can't just guard one player here in Meralco because anybody can make a difference.

"Also, the crucial thing is that we had more rebounds. It just goes to show what kind of intensity we have." Lanete finished with 17 points and Mark Isip and Cardona each added 10 for Meralco. Sol Mercado contributed eight points, seven rebounds and seven assists.

Sonny Thoss collected 19 points and six rebounds, Cyrus Baguio had 18 points and Jay-R Reyes contributed 11 points and eight rebounds for Alaska.

It was, indeed, an unusual ending for the Aces. A team noted for its poise lost its composure late in the game, with Tony De La Cruz bungling an open jumper and Baguio committing a turnover while trying to outmaneuver a defender with a crossover move when Meralco was only ahead by 78-75.

The error by Baguio led to two gift shots by Gabby Espinas. Espinas knocked in both with 11 seconds left, and Thoss missed a hook shot in the ensuing possession.(ZM)

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