03 March 2012

Bolts 90, Aces 98

Bolts vs Aces
Alaska didn't hesitate when it was allowed by Meralco to get open looks at the basket during the
opening period.

As it turned out, the Aces obtained a good rhythm the Bolts would never overcome.

Boosted by a superb performance in the first quarter, Alaska bludgeoned the struggling Meralco Bolts, 98-90, keeping its shot at a return trip to the playoffs in good shape in the PBA Commissioner's Cup Friday (2 March 2012) at the Cuneta Astrodome.

The Aces scored 23 of the game’s first 29 points, led by as large as 25, before thwarting every comeback attempt by the Bolts to secure their third win in five games and notch a confidence-boosting victory after suffering a 110-98 defeat at the hands of defending champion Talk 'N Text last Feb. 26.

"We were given open shots and we took them," said Alaska coach Joel Banal after the game. "We made a promise to ourselves not to go below .500 with four games to go. Hopefully, we can win at least two of our last four games."

Adam Parada collected 25 points and 14 rebounds, LA Tenorio contributed 19 points, six assists and five rebounds while Cyrus Baguio ignored the pains of a bad fall during practice three days back to score 18 points. Rookie Eric Salamat, meanwhile, came off the bench to add 10 points.

Sol Mercado and Earl Barron each tallied 26 points for Meralco, which suffered its fourth defeat in five games. The Bolts, who dropped their third game in a row, were pulled further down at the standings, putting their chances of advancing to the playoffs in danger.

"We feel great," said Tenorio. "But I think marami pa kaming dapat i-improve, especially our defense. Our offense is there already. Sana by playoff time, we can level up on our defense. Right now, we're in good shape. The key here is to remain focused and take our remaining assignments at one game at a time."

Indeed, the Aces, who made 11 of their first 15 shots, felt really good particularly in the first quarter when they immediately stormed to a 27-14 lead. They stretched it to 25 after a 12-0 blast opening the second quarter, and Meralco would never cut it down to single digits until the final count.

A big contributor to the victory, too, was the challenge waged by assistant coach Jojo Lastimosa.

"Coach Jojo said before the start of the game that a mark of a good team is that it can bounce back after a loss,” Banal said. “So coach Jolas challenged the team."

So horrendous was Meralco’s performance in the first quarter that it only managed to convert six of its 16 field goals for a poor 37.5 percent clip. Alaska likewise played more as a team in the opening period, dishing off five more assists than the enemy, 7-2.

A big disappointment for Meralco for the night was Gabby Espinas and Reynel Hugnatan, two veteran players who were held scoreless. (ZM)

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